Looking back to busy and productive 2021, Cardiff-based writer Taz Rahman shares in-depth insight into some of his cultural highlights
A year that came surreptitiously in distant smoke and starbursts, and suddenly retreated with its tail tucked into Omicron – that was in 2021.
The fireworks above the rows of East Cardiff terraces, starting each year a few minutes earlier than the town hall clock’s declaration the following year, appeared to be the only bright moments in the dismal demise that 2020 had predicted. Except there was no ‘Winter Wonderland’ or revelers huddled next to Town Hall to welcome the New Year.
It came with the lonely smell of cordial lime spilled on my windowsill and distant firecrackers lighting up the slate roofs all the way to the Bristol Channel.
I spent many hours in the first few weeks of January observing frozen bubbles on the Feeder Canal. The canal is nestled between the twin arteries of Lloyd George Avenue and Spooner Way connecting central Cardiff to Cardiff Bay.
The daily visitor who takes this shortcut to its north or south destination is surprised by the sight of a bulbous staccato in the canal, the piece where a willow had fallen in a storm a few years earlier, now hemmed in duckweed and too dense shrubs in summer to be individually deciphered by the plant identification application on my smartphone.
Mallards and moorhens do not need the 1st Viscount Radcliffe for partitioning the generally inaccessible interior under the weeping willow for nesting season, doing it all on his own and with no rifle butt in sight. Along the visible exterior of the willow stump and other branches is the territory of coots, grebes and a few cormorants until early summer.
Touching Elderly Feet
Most late afternoons lurk the curled shadow of an old gray heron. The cultural significance of this sleepy blueberry and sumac expanse of ancient Tiger Bay is not rooted in the heavy coal fumes of soot and ocean past. For me, this half-mile walk has served as the inspiration for most of the poems and stories I designed in 2021.
The ice was noticeably thick one morning in late January along the section of the canal which narrows further below Schooner Way, connecting the canal to Atlantic Wharf. Hoarse mallards skated towards me as they felt the torn pieces of sourdough rye bread in my palm, an affable specimen dampening its final swing by touching the tip of the light orange beak of my left shoe.
There is the Bengali tradition of touching the feet of the elders before each trip. I could feel the poignantness of the permission in that quack touch, but as the youngsters awaiting the end of the ‘ashirbad’ (blessing) as soon as possible, the excitement lay more in the upcoming trip for this mallard duck. in particular – the slow bursting of the January bubble, the coot fathers suddenly gathering with the arrival of the cubs, the gray heron waiting even more patiently in long shadows for the grebe chicks to hatch in late April and the year of party finally begins.
A word of warning to the reader who decides to descend the Feeder Canal with a handful of fancy bread: the lone swan is picky, but he will happily gorge himself on the best naan bread; mallards will eat any bread; grebes will ignore all your best pasty offerings; and finally, coots hate rye bread, but love pieces of custard. I am not a zoologist. If this diet goes against charity laws or the RSPB’s general feeding advice, please follow the experts, not a poet.
One morning in late February, I started the first draft of a story about a man who spent his nights under a tarp fighting aphids, scattered around a corner of Alexandra Gardens behind the hotel’s late Victorian splendor. of Cardiff City. The man walked daily along the Feeder Canal to touch Ivor Novello’s feet in Cardiff Bay.
As soon as I had finished the first draft of the story, the phone rang. It was Dela-Rose Katso-Hill from Literature Wales congratulating me on being selected as one of 12 Welsh Writers for the Representing Wales 2021 Writers Development Program. The story I was writing that morning , Glamorous night was chosen by Jenny Elise for one of her ‘Story Time’ reading sessions in May 2021.
The Literature Wales program, which officially started in April, came at a time when I had just started to feel comfortable seeing myself as a writer. In February, South Bank Poetry was the first notable poetry magazine to publish my poem ‘Seamstress This was followed in March by another poem, Butter, selected by Jonathan Edwards for his latest edition of Poetry Wales.
Along with the opportunity to learn and network with Wales’ literary and editorial community, the most important aspect of the writer’s development program for me has been the opportunity to be mentored by the inimitable Zoe Brigley a published poet and writer Bloodaxe, Parthe and Seren who later became the editor of Poetry Wales, one of the UK’s most revered poetry magazines.
Mentorship is an exceptionally rewarding gift for any emerging writer. Zoë Brigley’s influence is palpable in how I felt emboldened to write in a more sensual way, combining nature with tradition and taking more risks in everything I write.
This newfound confidence led to another poem Chocolate being published in the winter 2021 edition of Poetry Wales, with various poems being shortlisted for other publications and one poetry brochure being shortlisted by a Wales-based publisher.
The significant literary opportunity that marked me this year was to be one of three judges alongside Matt Haigh and Nia Morais for the premiere Wales Poetry Brochure competetion.
The long list of chapbooks the jury had to read to select the eventual winner were written by some of the best emerging poets writing today. The winning pamphlet from SL Grange, Bodies and other haunted houses, is boldly imaginative and is a highly anticipated 2022 publication by Seren Books.
Another literary highlight of the year for me was being invited to be a reviewer by the Books Council of Wales. Book Publishing Grant applications are peer reviewed in the literary community before the Book Council makes its final decision. I was honored to have the opportunity to immerse myself in a major anthology featuring 60 writers, many from Wales, by a leading independent publisher Broken sleep books.
One aspect of my literary journey that I am extremely grateful for is the opportunity to interview poets from Wales, document poetry evenings and work on literary documentaries. Youtube channel Just another poet is a digital platform documenting the culture of poetry in Wales, connecting poetry lovers with poets and exploring the cultural significance of poetry.
This year’s interviews featured Dyfan Lewis, Abeer Ameer, J Brookes, Aaron Kent, Alix Edwards and Ifor ap Glyn. There were only a handful of live poetry evenings to document due to social restrictions related to Covid19, however, the important rally in Cardiff, YesBarddoniaeth featured many notable Cardiff poets and writers such as Mike Jenkins, Eric Ngalle Charles and 2021 Wales Book of Winner of the Year Catrin Kean
I limited my 2021 reading highlights to just ten books – eight volumes of poetry and two novels. It had been a difficult task as I read so many wonderful books of poetry and brochures as well as novels and short stories during the year:
100 poems to save the earth, Seren Books, edited by Zoë Brigley and Kristian Evans, brings together many lavish conversations with nature and about nature, addressing the beauty and fragility of the planet we live in.
Inspire / Exile, Seren Books, by Abeer Ameer is a moving collection of precise poems about the stories, conflict, displacement and voyages sailing between Iraq and the United Kingdom.
Ancient & Modern Hymns, New & Selected Poems, Parthian Books, by J Brookes is a magnificent collection of sardonic and sentimental observations on the life of an influential Cardiff poet.
Brochures collected, Broken Sleep Books, by Aaron Kent is a visceral journey through the experimental and the novel, while remaining faithful to the working-class origin of the poet.
Poor, Penguin Books, by Caleb Femi is a strikingly beautiful rite of passage through London’s North Peckham Estate, by a boy tempted by Nike Air Jordans, the poems questioning and defining what it means to be young and black.
Postcolonial love poem, Faber, by Natalie Diaz is a collection of poems about ecstatic desire, the erosion of history, and the bodies of the natives, a collection rightly shortlisted for last year’s Forward Prize.
Small, Parthian Books, by Natalie Ann Holborow combines poems about the body, sensual wanderings through India, and questions and reinterpretations of familiar mythology.
A year in the new life, Faber, by Jack Underwood, shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize, is an intriguing and innovative collection of poems that demonstrates the possibilities of language and poetics, combining subjects ranging from new life to impending social collapse and unrest. public.
Someone loves you, And Other Stories, by Mona Arshi, is a novel about the silent experiences of two British and Indian sisters who grew up in London, told through a hybrid collection of vignettes, making it an intriguing read.
Four dervishes, Seren Books, by Hammad Rind is both dazzling and playful, the characters and subplots intriguing, satirical, touching everything from injustice to religious bigotry, the novel is a masterful narration by a Cardiff writer .
Taz Rahman is a Cardiff-based poetry, fiction and play writer, literary documentary maker, photographer and founder of Just Another Poet, Wales’ first Youtube channel dedicated to promoting the culture of poetry in Wales and is one of 12 writers chosen by Literature. Wales for the 2021 Representing Wales Writers Development Program Award. In addition to being one of three judges for the first Wales Poetry Brochure Competition in 2021, he is a Peer Reviewer of the Poetry Collection for the Books Council of Wales. His poems have been published in Poetry Wales, South Bank Poetry and in the upcoming anthology “Uprising” (Carreg Gwalch, 2022). Her plays, “Three Sisters” and “Ithaka” were performed at The Gate Arts Center in Cardiff.