To Bodies Gone: The Theatre of Peter Gill

To Bodies Gone: The Theatre of Peter Gill, Barney Norris
Barney Norris
‘A comprehensive and enjoyable portrait of one of the great, but slightly unsung, stalwarts of recent British theatre. It should be read by anyone aspiring to be a director, playwright or anyone who is passionate about theatre and craves insight into how plays work.’ – StageTalk Magazine The first study of one of the most significant voices of modern international theatre, one of Wales’s leading writers, and one of the most compelling and beautiful bodies of artistic work in the last fifty years. Written by an assistant and friend with an intimate and personal knowledge of Gill’s processes and values, To Bodies Gone explores a career extraordinary in its consistency, developing the clear ideas set of early productions that reach extraordinary heights in the mature work.The principle theme is the aesthetic Gill introduced to theatre, and which has remained the bedrock of his work, in its various manifestations and developments across several decades. Norris terms this the ‘theatre of Van Gogh’ – just as Van Gogh stared at a pair of boots and revealed them as beautiful by the way he saw and by giving them the light of attention, so Gill’s work as a writer and director has consistently revealed the daily world as extraordinary. Analysing the phases of his career in broadly chronological, this study places Gill in the wider context of the theatre, providing a snapshot of theatre in the second half of the twentieth century and contributing new insights to the study of theatre history.To Bodies Gone includes chapters on Gill’s early work, influences (Lawrence, Chekhov, Beckett), his translations and adaptations (Lawrence, Chekhov, Wedekind, Faulkner), his directing career at the Royal Court, Riverside Studios, National Theatre and NT Studio, plus his major plays – Small Change, Kick for Touch, In the Blue, Cardiff East, The York Realist and his 2014 set at the Versailles peace conference. The result is a major study full of insight into Gill and into British Theatre. 

In Her Own Words: Women Talking Poetry and Wales

Alice Entwistle In Her Own Words
Edited by Alice Entwistle
In Her Own Words is a collection of interviews with women poets from Wales. The subjects range in age (from their thirties to their nineties), in geographic location, and in themes and subject matter. The interviews variously explore topics ranging from personal biography, the complex joys and strains of balancing life with art, issues of cultural politics, gender, family life, to the women's often contrasting experiences of various kinds of change, including political devolution. The challenges and tensions associated with living and working - or for Wales-identifying writers like Deryn Rees-Jones and Wendy Mulford, not living and working - in Wales' dual-language culture is a lodestone for the book. Editor Alice Entwistle has selected for interview Tiffany Atkinson, Ruth Bidgood, Anne Cluysenaar, Menna Elfyn, Christine Evans, Catherine Fisher, Gwyneth Lewis, Wendy Mulford, Sheenagh Pugh, Deryn Rees-Jones, Anne Stevenson, Zoe Skoulding, Samantha Wynne Rhydderch and Nerys Williams.

Poetry and Privacy: Questioning Public Interpretations of Contemporary British and Irish Poetry

Poetry and Privacy, John Redmond
John Redmond
Poetry and Privacy questions a set of relationships – critical, authorial, and existential − between poetry and the public sphere. Its main contention − that readings of British and Irish poetry rely too often on a thesis of public relevance − arises out of a more general conviction: that the relationship between poetry and the public sphere is negatively woven. It is undoubtedly true that poetry and criticism are bitterly aware of their marginal status. Both have lost confidence and direction. In public life as in literary life, we have entered a period of deleveraging and disavowal, of recanting and retrenchment. This seems a good time for emptying out some old ways of thinking about poetry. Large claims were made for poetry in the 1930s and large claims were made for literary criticism in the 1970s, but they have led to no obvious outcomes in the public world.The major response of poetry to its marginal position has been promotional in outlook and anti-intellectual in spirit, and in the context of burgeoning creative writing courses universities host a poetic class both anti-academic and hostile to intelligent scrutiny. Each needs the other but the result is trimmed expectations, the dominance of populism and a poverty of ideas.In essays on Derek Mahon, Glyn Maxwell, Robert Minhinnick, Seamus Heaney, Sylvia Plath, John Burnside, Vona Groarke, David Jones and W.S. Graham, John Redmond seeks to introduce a sense of pragmatism into the relationships between poetry and criticism (academe) and poetry and social or political relevance. It opposes is the determination to read poetry in publicly oriented ways, the determination to make it fit with one kind of public program or another. The essays in this book offer fresh appraisals of noteworthy poets while creating a portrait of British and Irish poetry in a new century in which in politics, society and poetry there is a broad sense of an ending, and ask how poetry might progress in the future.

Fire Drill

Fire Drill, John Barnie
John Barnie
Fire Drill is an ambitious collection of essays in which the author 'attempts to make sense of the first decade of the twenty-first century'. It represents a strand of contemporary thought at once Barnie’s but also that of a wider, if relatively silent section of the general public. The essays are antagonistic to 'junk culture', political expediency, cultural imperialism, globalisation and reject any depiction of the natural world that sentimentalises its realities. Central to the book is Barnie’s atheism (his value system is dependent on scientific 'proof' rather than cultural mores) which gives a strand in the book in which he painstakingly dissects biblical texts and confronts what he believes a major contemporary problem: the influence of the literalists and creationists of modern religion. The debunking is done with engaging relish. The reader will also be engaged by another strand of vivid essays concerning Barnie’s personal engagement with the natural.Barnie’s insights are hard won and lucidly expressed. The essays are liberal, humanist and informed by varying degrees of altruism, environmentalism and culture. They are concerned with humanity and how it responds to and is manipulated and exploited by capitalism, religion, politics and technology, and by how buying into this exploitation (knowingly or not) has created a reduction in human experience (junk culture, short-termism, the cult of self) and human capacity of experience. Barnie doesn’t set out to be popular (or unpopular), the careful, informed setting out of argument and opinion is one of the book’s strengths.

Wales on Screen

Wales on Screen, Steve Blandford
Steve Blandford
How has Wales been portrayed in the cinema and on TV? How does it portray itself? Is it possible to forge a distinctive film industry in the shadow of UK/US cultural domination? This book surveys the celluloid depiction of Wales from How Green Was My Valley to Twin Town, and looks at the current state of the television industry. What are the conditions for creatives and technicians? Does Wales get its fair share of network programming? Is language an issue? Why is animation such a success story? Film-makers and commentators alike address these complex subjects with verve and insight, making Wales on Screen essential reading for all concerned with Welsh cultural life.

A Militant Muse

A Militant Muse, Harri Webb
Harri Webb
Harri Webb (1920-1994) was not only one of the most popular poets in Wales but also a plangent cultural commentator. He wrote extensively on literary and political subjects for more than three decades, in the Western Mail and several magazines.Writing from the political left (be it the Labour Party or Plaid Cymru), Harri Webb was impatient with the Welsh Establishment and the London Welsh and his tone was often critical. The hallmark of his essays and reviews was a pungent style designed to provoke. The selection here dates from the post-war optimism of 1948 and an essay on the perennial issue of a national theatre for Wales to 1980 and an article for the Radio Times on pit closures. By this time Webb, deflated by the Devolution referendum vote, had begun to despair that the changes he sought would ever be made. In between these two dates Webb’s essays chart many of the cultural debates taking place in his country, debates to which he made a telling and entertaining contribution.

The Presence of the Past

The Presence of the Past
Jeremy Hooker
This new collection of essays explores such urgent concerns in late twentieth century poetry as national and personal identity, and the relationship of history and the present. Jeremy Hooker takes a variety of poets and poems and sets them against each other to produce illuminating insights into the condition of modern poetry as a whole. Hooker also adds his thoughts on the present practice of literary criticism and the philosophies which form it. Drawing on poets from the English, American and Anglo-Welsh traditions, Hooker’s subjects include Eliot, Bunting, Hill, Oppen, Wainwright, John Matthias, Roland Mathias, Gillian Clarke, John Ormond, and John Tripp. Almost all of the essays have been written since the publication of Hooker’s last book of general criticism, the much admired Poetry of Place ( 1982).

Poetry of R.S. Thomas

Poetry of R.S. Thomas
John Powell Ward
R.S. Thomas was perhaps the greatest living British poet, the author of twenty collections of poetry, a writer of international repute and the subject of increasing critical and academic interest. The Poetry of R.S. Thomas was the first critical work about him, an invaluable volume which has yet to be surpassed. Its author has taken the opportunity to completely revise and update the book reflecting on both the development of Thomas’ career and the poetry collections of the last ten years. Grouping the books together thematically, Ward examines Thomas’ growing reputation and discusses the poet’s concerns and subjects, and the images and techniques he uses to express them as they evolve through the increasing Thomas canon. The result is a fascinating guide to over fifty years of writing.The breadth of Ward’s knowledge, together with his own practise as a poet, ensures he is equally at home with theological argument or the use of metaphor; nationalism or naturalism; Romanticism or the philosophy of Wittgenstein. Ward offers stimulating insights into the character and work of the twentieth century’s greatest religious poet in English, from the early hill-farmer poems which brought him fame through those allied to visual art, the "lost faith" poems, to the philosophical later work. In the process Ward confirms his own position as one of the most profound thinkers about poetry today.

The Page's Drift

M. Wynn Thomas
R.S. Thomas is one of the most important poets of the post-war period, ’the most resolute religious poetry this century’ (TLS). His influence on British poetry is enormous, while the variety of his themes: disappearing ways of life; man’s relationship with God; cultural imperialism; the crisis in Welsh identity; nature and the environment, has brought him a wide and popular audience. The author of more than twenty volumes, his massive Collected Poems appeared in 1993. The Page’s Drift is a celebration of R.S. Thomas’s eightieth birthday and his long writing career. The specially commissioned essays range across the Thomas canon, from his Welsh hill farmer persona Iago Prytherch, to a comparison with Dylan Thomas, to his unsteady relations with God. Admirers of R.S. Thomas’s work, and those coming to it for the first time, will find this book an invaluable and informative guide.

The Mature Laurel

Adam Czerniawski
The poets of Poland witnessed sweeping changes throughout the twentieth century: often writing under repressive conditions, or in exile, their country is central to their work. Its plight has caused the very creative act to be questioned and reviewed.The essays in The Mature Laurel trace the course of Polish poetry from Norwid to the New Wave, virtually the whole of the last century. They feature individual writers, most notably Herbert, Roiewicz, Milosz and Szymborska, but also more general issues: writing under Stalinism, the distortion of translation, relationships with visual art. The book also includes a section of shorter essays in which British critics discuss individual poems by Herbert, Norwid, Milosz and Rozewicz.