I guess the state of the future only really starts to concern you when you pass forty. Before that it’s all zoom and delight. My approach has been to find someone at least a decade older than I am and watch how they get on. If they are still having a good time then everything’s fine. I ran into our National Poet Gillian Clark reading, opening things, making welcome speeches and generally elevating the art form on at least four occasions last month. She’s older than I am by the requisite amount and shows not the slightest sign of flagging. Her work continues to hit target perfectly and the world clearly loves her. Plenty of future left.
When you die in Wales they name a competition after you. Just before that they have an event celebrating your life and work. Herbert Williams, whose lifetime achievement writer of the people event was put on more than a decade ago, told me that the next thing was daisies. Pushing them up. Since then, however, Herb has published two books of poems and at least half a dozen novels. And there are more on the way this year. Herb is clearly not ready for slowing down yet.
Those who have actually moved to another plain, including a few who managed to get their celebratory event after they’d gone, live on as names attached to gongs. The Dylan Thomas Prize. The John Tripp Award for Spoken Poetry. The Harri Webb Award. The RS Thomas Poetry Prize. This latter trophy was actually only awarded once. It was given by the prize founder, Dafydd Wyllt, to the best poet who happened to be in the room at the time.
Some of you will remember Dafydd. He used to stand outside the Post Office in Hills Street playing an accordion. Welsh airs. The prize was an elaborately woven dressing gown cord attached to an engraved brass tag. I can’t recall now who actually won but it wasn’t me.
The Rhys Davies Short Story Competition is actually a contest of a totally different stripe. Set up in memory of the great Rhondda author the award offers a first prize of £1000 for a piece of Welsh fiction written in English of no more than 2500 words. That’s quarter of an hour’s worth read out loud. The entry fee is £6.00 a story and to enter you need to either live in Wales or have been born here. That makes both Prince Charles and Rowan Williams eligible. But would they win?
Judges this year are Trezza Azzopardi, Russell Celyn Jones and Sian Preece. Closing date is July 22. Winning stories will also be broadcast by the BBC. Funded by the Rhys Davies Trust and managed by Literature Wales entry forms are available online at www.literaturewales.org . Good luck.