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Review: cylymau tywod ~ knots of sands

cylymau tywod ~ knots of sand
John Rowlands

£12 from Alba Publishing

This week a friend on Facebook shared an old photograph of us, standing together on the shore of the Atlantic on Florida's east coast, and I felt homesick for the sensation of damp sand under my feet, for the scent of salt on the breeze.  

I was born next to the sea in South Wales. The beach and sand dunes were our playground as children. The sound of breaking waves became so familiar I had to focus intently to hear them at night before I fell asleep.

roaring sea
tongues of foam
silenced in sand (p.32)

The knots of sand in the title of Rowlands' haiku collection are the ropey-looking burrowings that lugworm leave on the surface of the sand. My dad used to dig for lugworm, to use as fishing bait, on the beach at low-tide. 

cylymau tywod in Welsh, my mother's first language, the language we were not taught growing up in Port Talbot (for outdated reasons about learning) but one that still formed a natural part of my life: spoken during family visits in Llanelli, my parents' hometown, used in Welsh school plays on St David's Day, in the hymns and songs we learnt for assemblies and concerts, for the 'O' and then 'A' level I took at Sandfields Comprehensive School.  

cleber nefolaidd                    they talk of heaven
llenwaf fy llygaid                   I fill my eyes
â sylwedd y sêr                     with skies and stars (p.5) 

So many of the haiku in this book bring me back to myself through the sea and through language. Rowlands' experiences and responses are transposed through emotional engagement and acts of imagination into my own.

oedi                              stopping
i                                   to
wrando                         listen
ar                                to
dawelwch                     the silence
yr                                of
eira'n                           falling
disgyn                         snow (p.97)


... a memory from February 1963 of my four year old self leaning over the back of a deep red Rexine settee watching the streets and roads blanketed with heavy snow.  

I enter his house of words and find the gift of myself at home. 

trwy heddiw
i arogl doeau
llifio coed

through today
to the scent of yesterdays
sawing logs (p.42)

We are all connected through our common sensory experiences, by the way we see, hear, taste, smell and touch the world. And by what we feel for each other too.

you say yes
sleet softens
to snow (p.103) 


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