Monday, 8 October 2007

Welsh Poet & Novelist Grahame Davies Celebrated with Glamorous Manhattan Fête

[Pictured above: Simone Weil in Marseilles, France, 1942]

"God could only create by hiding himself. Otherwise there would be nothing but himself."

-- Simone Weil in her book, 'Gravity and Grace'

After affording the local literati a smashing May glimpse at the new novel 'Everything Must Change' by Grahame Davies, held among that funky modern art eclecticism which blends with tidy Victorian stone spires at Cardiff's Roath auditorium, The Gate, the celebrated Welsh poet will trade the sophisticated Cathays crowd for the even more up-market pastiche afforded by a posh reception to be held at the end of this month in the Chrysler Building on Lexington Avenue in New York City.

The brass and steel Art Deco splendor and post-war glitz of the Chrysler Building seems a fitting venue to launch Davies's new novel, which blends tales of Welsh nationalism with the epic story of 'The Red Virgin' a.k.a., French Neo-Platonic philospher and Résistance Heroine Simone Weil.

For more about Simone Weil please read Susan Sontag's essay in the New York Review of Books:

Simone Weil By Susan Sontag

In the essay

'Simone Weil: A saint for our time?' by Jillian Becker, Becker says,

"August 23, 2002, will be the fifty-ninth anniversary of the death of Simone Weil, a French Jew revered by many Christians as an uncanonized saint."

"Exegetes of diverse faiths (and none) have written at length about her mystical meditations. André Gide declared her “the most spiritual writer of this [twentieth] century.” Albert Camus called her “the only great spirit of our time.”"

And here's what some important voices are saying about the new Grahame Davies novel, 'Everything Must Change':

Nofel feddylgar a theimladwy am ddyfodol daliadau radical tanbaid yn y byd modern. Mae'r llyfr yn cyfosod stori'r athronydd a'r ymgyrchydd Ffrengig Simone Weil, gyda hanes yr ymgyrchydd dychmygol, Meinwen Jones, sydd ar goll yn y Gymru ol-ddatganoledig.

‘Yn athronyddol sylweddol… mae'n fy atgoffa o drioleg Jean-Paul Sartre o'r 1940au, Les Chemins de la Liberté [Llwybrau Rhyddid]. Yma, fe welir dewis y Gymru ol-ddatganoledig. Dyma'r nofel ol-genedlaetholaidd gyntaf. - Yr Arglwydd Dafydd Elis-Thomas.

A moving and thoughtful first novel about passionately held, radical beliefs and their place in the modern world. It intercuts the story of 20th century French philosopher and activist, Simone Weil, with that of 21st century campaigner Meinwen Jones, adrift in post-devolution Wales.

‘Philosophically weighty… it reminds me of Jean-Paul Sartre's 1940s trilogy, Les Chemins de la Liberté [Paths of Liberty]. Here… is set out the Welsh post-nationalistic choice. This is the first post-national novel. - Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas.

‘… a compelling glimpse of a compelling personality [Simone Weil]. The book is pertinent, provocative and thoroughly entertaining. Anybody with an interest in the way culture and identity inform the lives we make could read the book - and find in it rich nourishment. - Owen Martell.

In October 2007, Grahame Davies will be spending three weeks in the United States on a literary tour. On October 13, he will be paying a return visit to perform a reading at the Festival of Welsh Heritage at Delta.

Then on October 16, he will be lecturing on antisemitism at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.

There's a story on the visit here.

On the afternoon of October 28, he will be doing a reading at the Chi Dance Centre in Westport, Connecticut, and at 6.30pm on October 30, he will be reading at the North American launch of Everything Must Change at the Wales International Centre in the Chrysler Building, New York City.

Air Travel for the Grahame Davies North American Book tour is provided for by Wales Arts International.

Oct 30; 18:00 Eastern Standard Time, Launch of the new novel 'Everything Must Change' at Wales International Centre, Chrysler Building, 21st Floor 405 Lexington Avenue New York, NY10174 Tel: (00) 1 646 792 8920

A New Wales Dawning: Mae Cory Band & Cantorion yn Canu Hyfryd Cerddoriaeth Newydd gan Karl Jenkins gyda Grahame Davies! Here's the video of Cantilena by Karl Jenkins performed by Cory Band & Cantorion, lyrics by Grahame Davies

Karl Jenkins with Cantorion and the Cory Band

This Land of Ours
Karl Jenkins with Cantorion and the Cory Band
Series: EMI Classics
Released: 22/10/2007
Cat. No: 509 0932
Format: CD
Number Of Discs: 1
Barcode: 5099950909322

[Pictured above: Welsh Author Grahame Davies; Photography of Grahame Davies by Mauro Philip Conti, Miami Beach, Florida, U.S.A.]

Coming Soon: REAL WREXHAM by Grahame Davies & Peter Finch

'The best thing to come out of Wrexham is the bus to Chester' - so goes the old saw about this workaday town. Yet is it true or fair? Wrexham, the major centre in north east Wales gets the Real treatment from novelist and poet Grahame Davies, once of Coedpoeth on the outskirts of the town.

Mixing personal experience and memory with history, topography, journalism, and an unflagging interest, Grahame Davies lifts the stone and finds something rather special.

It voted a resounding no in the devolution referendum and you're just likely to hear a Liverpool or Manchester accent on the street but Wrexham straddles several lines: the border between Wales and England, the fault line of Welsh and English languages, the shift from heavy industry to post industrial society, Anglicanism and dissent.

It rests in two shadows, upmarket Chester and metropolitan Liverpool yet to the west lies farming and heritage in the rural vale of Clwyd. Wrexham lager, a giant killing football club (humbled by a property speculator), St Giles' church (one of the Seven Wonders of Wales) and Elihu Yale are among the things for which Wrexham is famous and Davies finds the town itself is just as diverse.

The history, civic and personal, which he uncovers is a revelation.

Grahame Davies's Book Tour Itinerary:

Oct 12: Depart Bristol, 1030 Continental for Newark. Arrive Newark 1325 local time. Travel to Delta PA.

Oct 13, 1300. Reading at Rehoboth Welsh Chapel, Delta, PA, as part of Festival of Welsh Heritage. Festival of Welsh Heritage

Oct 15. Travel to Somerset, MA.

Oct 16: 1300 Lunchtime seminar at Yale University, New Haven CT for:

The Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism

Oct 21-23: Visit to Vermont.

Oct 24. Fly Boston – Columbus OH via JFK, depart Boston 1340, arrive Columbus 1823. Staying in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

Oct 26: Fly Columbus- JFK, dep 1440, arrive 1632. Staying for next five nights at Seafarers & International House, 123 East 15th Street, New York, NY 10003

Oct 28: 1600. Poetry reading at Chi Art Centre, 44 Main St, Westport, Connecticut.

Chi Art Centre

Oct 30; 1800 for 1830, Launch of Everything Must Change at Wales International Centre, Chrysler Building, 21st Floor 405 Lexington Avenue New York, NY10174 Tel: (00) 1 646 792 8920

Oct 31. Fly Newark-Bristol. Depart 2055. Arr Bristol, Nov 1, 0740.

Grahame was Winner of Wales Arts Council's Book of the Year Award, 2002

Grahame was nominated for Book of the Year prize 2005.

"One of the most independent, and as such, most interesting voices of contemporary Welsh-language poetry."
Gerwyn Wiliams

"This is the first post-nationalist novel," Dafydd Elis-Thomas on Rhaid i Bopeth Newid.

"One of the clearest public poetic voices of his generation," Emyr Lewis

"An unequalled satirist,” John Gruffydd Jones.

“He sees through the deception and falseness of urban media life better than anyone, and he’s scathing in his vision of the emptiness of city existence...this poet has sufficient mastery of language to disturb and reach the roots of the soul.” Alan Llwyd.

"Poems which brilliantly describe Welsh life in the capital." Peter Finch.

“There’s a new world-view on our everyday lives here, overloaded with memorable images and phrases,” Menna Elfyn.

“He has an incredible gift of expression. There’s scarcely a poem in the volume that doesn’t contain truly original and clever phrases.” Meirion MacIntyre Huws.

Poet, editor and literary critic, born in 1964 and brought up in the former coal mining village of Coedpoeth near Wrexham in north east Wales.

The Big Book of Cardiff, edited by Peter Finch and Grahame Davies, is a new anthology of writing about the city of Cardiff which is celebrating 100 years as a city, and 50 years as the Welsh capital.

It contains revealing and entertaining contributions by Niall Griffiths, Dannie Abse, John Williams, James Hawes, Trezza Azzopardi, Sean Burke, Duncan Bush, Gillian Clarke, Anna Davis, Nia Williams, Lloyd Robson, and Emyr Humphreys as well as translated extracts from many Welsh-language writers such as Ifor ap Glyn, Elinor Wyn Reynolds and Owen Martell.

Other books by Grahame Davies:

Gwyl y Blaidd / The Festival of the Wolf
(Parthian/Hafan, 2006), £6.99. Eds. Tom Cheesman, Grahame Davies, Sylvie Hoffman.

Poetry, prose, drama and testimony by refugees and asylum seekers, side by side with other writers in Wales, past and present, including: Mahmood Ahmadifard, Alexander Cordell, Kate Bosse-Griffiths, Michael Mokako, Geoffrey of Monmouth, Josef Herman and Soleiman Adel Guemar. The volume is presented in parallel Welsh and English text. All proceeds go to refugee charities.

Rhaid I Bopeth Newid -- This is the first novel by the satirical poet who came to prominence with his volume Cadwyni Rhyddid, which won the Book of the Year Prize in 2002, and which challenged the comfortable life of metropolitan media people with a combination of the satirical and the scathing.

In his first novel, Rhaid i Bopeth Newid, (Everything Must Change) published by Gomer, the canvas has broadened as he examines the fate of the radical conscience in post-devolution Wales.

This time, there are hard questions not just for the enemies of the Welsh language, but for its friends, and not just for politicians, but for campaigners too.

The novel intercuts the story of language campaigner Meinwen Jones with that of the French philosopher and radical activist, Simone Weil.

According to the prizewinning novelist Owen Martell, Rhaid i Bopeth Newid is "essential reading material for anyone who wants to get under the skin of the Welsh language debate – from both sides."

Cadwyni Rhyddid: (“Chains of Freedom”)
(Barddas, 2001), £5.50.

Winner of Wales Arts Council Book of the Year Prize, 2002

In his first volume, Adennill Tir (1997), which won the Harri Webb Memorial Prize, Grahame Davies gave his hard-hitting view of the Valleys during the tough years of the nineties.

Here, in this biting new volume, he has turned his attention to the city of Cardiff, which is now enjoying the advantages of devolution. It exposes the experience of Welsh-speaking Cardiff from within.

Here are the “leather-trousered tribes” who spend more on a haircut than some of their fellow Welsh people earn in a week; here are the “class of the sunglasses” who think Klein is the only Calvin and that oppression is having a cleaning lady who can’t speak Welsh.

In this provocative and scathing volume, which includes the sequence “Rhyddid” (“Freedom”) which came second for the National Eisteddfod Crown in 1998, the tensions and irony of life in New Wales are exposed, showing that even freedom has its chains.

Aspiring writers are encouraged to contact the Welsh Academy of Writers / Academi for information about writing courses in your area.

The Academi is the Welsh National Literature Promotion Agency and Society for Authors.

The Academi runs events, courses, competitions, including the Cardiff International Poetry Competition, with the support of Cardiff Council and offering a First Prize of £5000, conferences, tours by authors, lectures, international exchanges, events for schools, readings, literary performances and festivals.

Academi is also responsible for the National Poet of Wales project and the Welsh Academy Encyclopaedia of Wales.

For additional info please contact Dr. Mark Leslie Woods at mwoods[at]

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