A very familiar face stood as the Corn Gwlad heralded across the packed Pavilion as Jim Parc Nest (T James Jones) was chaired at this year’s final Gorsedd ceremony.
Jim wins the Chair for a poem or collection of poems in cynghanedd, of no more than 250 lines, entitled Gorwelion (Horizons). The adjudicators were Myrddin ap Dafydd, Llion Jones and Ieuan Wyn. Speaking from the stage on behalf of his fellow-adjudicators, Llion Jones outlined that only seven poets had competed for the Chair this year, and after discussing the other six poems, he turned to the winning composition, saying, “If you’ve done your maths, you’ll know that there’s one still in the running. This poet is Wil Tabwr, and thank goodness for this.
"This is a poetic drama in strict metre, a vibrant portrayal of Iolo Morganwg, the stonemason from Fleminstoin, father of the Gorsedd of the Bards, and in the words of his biographer, historian Geraint jenkins, "one of the most intelligent and creative Welshmen ever seen."
"This is a poem celebrating the creative and radical spirit which was so much part of Iolo, and which is, according to the poet and Iolo alike, invaluable to the survival of a nation.
“He takes a look back at centuries of poetic tradition, from Catterick to Cilmeri, and he hears nothing but bardic eulogies, prompting him to ask ‘Ai hyn oll fu ei siwrne hi, ‘mond storom o hunandosturi?’ (Was this journey nothing but a storm of self-pity?). This question in turn leads to a further rhetorical question ‘Ai dyma’r eiliad i ymwroli?’ (Is this the time to be courageous?)
“The three of us are in agreement, Wil Tabwr’s composition is well ahead in the race for this year’s Chair, due to its ambition, its orientation, its thoughts and its prosody. The colours and layers of its ‘canvas story’ highlights his command of all the rhythms and keys of the Welsh language. But Wil has not made it easy for us as adjudicators either. The work is undoubtedly in strict metre, and includes a number of cleverly linked passages of cynghanedd, but the question whether it is in fact an ‘awdl’ or a collection of poems will be discussed in detail over the next few months. And if he hadn’t chosen to include the list of Iolo’s achievements as a chunk of prose, then Wil would have challenged another of the competition’s conditions by presenting a poem over the 250 lines allowed.
“But there is no doubt that Wil has the vision. He also has the talent and resources to convey this vision. In his adjudication, the current archdruid remarks that this year is “the bicentenary of the merging of our oldest national organisation – the Gorsedd – with the establishment which, by now, has accomplished more than any other towards the survival of our culture.’ In Myrddin’s words, “Wil Tabwr’s poem unifies the need for Iolo Morganwg’s imagination in the eighteenth century, with the need for similar imagination in our time to discover our path to freedom.”
“Wil Tabwr has created a dramatic and innovative poem, which is wholly worthy of the Conwy County National Eisteddfod Chair. I’m sure Iolo himself would be in his element thinking that today’s Gorsedd honours a poet who continues to sing ‘above the blackness of the precipice’, demanding to show that there is still a chink of little in the darkness.”
Originally from Newcastle Emlyn, Jim lives in Radyr, Cardiff. He is a former Archdruid and is used to the pomp and honour of the Eisteddfod’s Gorsedd ceremonies.
This is the second time for him to win the National Eisteddfod Chair, following his success at the Flintshire National Eisteddfod twelve years ago in 2007. He has also won the Eisteddfod Crown twice, in Fishguard in 1986 and Newport two years later in 1988.
A published poet, stage, radio and television dramatist, he wrote Dan y Wenallt, his translation of Under Milk Wood, Dylan Thomas. This play was written under the dark clouds of the Second World War, which threatened to oblivify the human-race.
He says, “This poem was created during a politically tumultuous period for Wales. But by accepting Iolo Morganwg, the Freedom Poet’s hopeful vision, we may, during this frightful time, withstand the imperialistic oppression of Britishness.”
He appreciates the support and inspiration of close and extended family, as well as friends. He also recognises Professor Geraint Jenkins and his colleagues’ essential research on the life and work of the unique Iolo.
The Chair is sponsored by the Caernarfonshire and Denbighshire Branches of the Farmers Union of Wales, and the financial prize is donated in memory of poet Gwynfor ab Ifor by his family.
Gwenan Jones, a young woman from the Eisteddfod area, is responsible for designing and creating the Chair. She says, “It has been such an honour to design and create a Chair for the National Eisteddfod especially with the festival being held locally. I appreciate the opportunity and have thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
“The River Conwy and the county’s industries have inspired the design. The river is the backbone of the county, flowing from its source at Llyn Conwy on the Migneint Mountain to the estuary in Conwy, and it is seen running down the two shepherd’s sticks that form the side of the Chair. The shape of the stick reflects the county’s agricultural background and the river flows brown to reflect the peatland of the area.”
At the top of both front legs, a slate bed was laid from Cwm Penmachno Quarry, framed by embedded layers of copper. The writing and date are also set in copper.
“I thought it was important to use different materials from the Conwy County area, so local slate and copper are prominent, as there is a historic copper quarry at the Great Orme, Llandudno. The copper is also visible on the Nod Cyfrin on the back panel of the Chair.
“In addition, the town of Llanrwst is visually important, and the town bridge, with its contrast of circular and angular shapes inspired the design of the two front legs. I have also created a statue of the bridge on the back panel of the Chair: it has a white finish to reflect the techniques of lime construction and old cement.
“Then, three coloured veins run from the back of the chair, aiming for three arches of the bridge and extending into the horizon. By following the coloured veins, which represent the language, up the Chair, we have a sense of searching for the horizon, which is a reflection of the written text of this year’s Chair.”
Gwenan used a contemporary clear resin technique to create to create the seat, with two bits of oak with raw sides reflecting the banks of the River Conwy. Between the two pieces of wood, she has clustered stones from the river, from the source to the waterfront, representing the whole county. Fish are locked in the resin, symbolising river and country life.
The Chair was hand-made by Gwenan at her workplace in Maerdy, Corwen.
The Cyfansoddiadau a Beirniadaethau, which includes the full adjudication for this competition and the winners of all the other composition winners at this year’s Eisteddfod will be published at the end of the ceremony.
The Conwy County National Eisteddfod is held near Llanrwst until 10 August. For more information go online, www.eisteddfod.wales.