Aneirin Karadog wins the Eisteddfod Chair

5 August 2016

Aneirin Karadog from Pontyberem is the winner of this year’s Eisteddfod Chair, and he was honoured at a special ceremony on the Pavilion today.

This year’s task was to compose a sequence of poems in full cynghanedd of up to 250 lines titled ‘Ffiniau’ (Borders / Boundaries).  The adjudicators were Tudur Dylan Jones, Cathryn Charnell-White and Meirion MacIntyre Huws.

The competition attracted nine entries, and when delivering the adjudication, Tudur Dylan Jones said, “The pseudonym is Tad Diymadferth?, with a question mark at the end.

“The opening poem of the sequence is ‘Gwyr a Aeth Catterick Barracks’. A father driving his son in a car to become a soldier.  The father is against his son’s decision to become a soldier.  The father sees the big picture, and sees that war creates most of the world’s problems like famine and refugees who have to cross seas to seek asylum. 

“We see different points of view in the poems, the father, the son, the asylum seekers, the politicians, and the there is a deliberate echo from Dic Jones’ ode, ‘Y Gwanwyn’.  The Hendre farm borders with the Aberporth airport, where they practise flying the drones used to kill people.

“The final poem, ‘Dros blant ein plant’ (For our children’s children), shows the desperation of the father because his son is responsible for killing people.  He finds it difficult to break the vicious circle of war.  Tad Diymadferth? has voiced a parent’s deepest fears.  They are poems which make us think.  They encourage us not be helpless.

“There are definite qualities in the work of Mared, Brynglas and Broc Môr.  But this year’s competition was between Siac and Tad Diymadferth?  It is half a century since Dic Jones won the Chair in Aberafan, and the Chair, as we know has been given by Jean and the family, and Dic more than anyone would be pleased to hear that there is a winner today, and that the three of us are unanimous in our decision that Tad Diymadferth? is a worthy winner of the Eisteddfod Chair.”

Aneirin Karadog is studying for a Doctorate in Welsh creative writing at the Hywel Teifi Academy in Swansea University.  He also works as a poet and freelance broadcaster.  Born in Llanrwst, he spent his early years in Pontardawe before the family moved to Pontypridd, where he was educated at Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Rhydfelen.  He graduated in French and Spanish at New College, Oxford.  He became interested in languages at a young age, as he was brought up in a trilingual household, where he and his brother spoke Welsh, Breton and English.

Aneirin has won a number of prizes for poetry, including the Emyr Feddyg Scholarship at the Newport Eisteddfod in 2004, the Urdd Eisteddfod Chair in Cardiff in 2005, and the Eisteddfod’s telyneg competition at Wrexham in 2011.  His first volume of poetry, O Annwn i Geltia (Cyhoeddiadau Barddas), won the poetry category at the Book of the Year Awards in 2013, and he has just published a new volume of poems, Bylchau (Cyhoeddiadau Barddas).

Aneirin performs his poetry with Tir Iarll and Y Deheubarth, the ymryson team at the National Eisteddfod.  He enjoyed two years as the Children’s Laureate from 2013 to 2015, and he published his first volume of poems for children last year, Agor Llenni’r Llygaid (Gomer). He was a well known face on the daily television series, Wedi 7 and Heno for almost a decade, and on Sam ar y Sgrin and Y Barf.  He was also a rapper with the Hip Hop groups, Y Diwygiad, Genod Droog and the Datgyfodiad.

He lives in Pontyberem with his wife, Laura and daughter Sisial, with a brother or sister for Sisial on the way.  The sequence of poems for the Chair responds to two things: being the father of a four year old daughter and the prospective father to a new baby, and the turbulent year we have seen across the world, with wars and terrorism, and seeing the politicians’ rhetoric becoming more extreme.  He feels helpless in the face of these forces.  This all leads him to worry about the world our children will inherit in years to come.

This year marks fifty years since Dic Jones won the Chair at the Aberafan Eisteddfod for his ode, ‘Y Cynhaeaf’ (The Harvest), and to note this important anniversary, the Chair is given by the family in the poet’s memory.  The financial prize is donated in memory of Islwyn Jones, Wenvoe, Cardiff.

Emyr Garnon James, Head of Design and Technology at Ysgol Uwchradd Aberteifi, used to visit Yr Hendre, Dic Jones’ family home, was chosen by the family to design and create this year’s Chair.

Emyr says, “I used to call at Yr Hendre, and the Aberafan Eisteddfod Chair was in the corner of the room.  I never imagined that I would be chosen to create an Eisteddfod Chair in memory of Dic himself.  It has been an honour and a pleasure to create this Chair, and I thank the family for the opportunity.

“One thing was certain from the start when speaking to the family, it had to be a ‘no-fuss’ Chair, the wood being the main attraction.  I returned to Yr Hendre to see the 1966 Chair, which was a very modern Chair in its day, a simple Chair with beautiful wood.  I chose to work with black walnut, and created a simple design with straight lines, a design which would, hopefully, have been appreciated by Dic himself.

“Working with the black walnut has been a special experience, and I have learnt how to cast bronze into the wood to create the inscription and the Nod Cyfrin (Gorsedd of the Bards symbol).  I may well use some of these techniques in future projects with pupils at school, after exploring different ways of working when creating the Chair.”