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Lost Head in Cors Caron
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by Glyn Rhys

The striking photograph on the cover of Lost Head in Cors Caron is that of Tollund Man, a Danish bog-body which epitomizes the idea that death can be peaceful. Tollund Man appears to be asleep. His leathery face, the lines on the forehead still clearly visible, bears the expression of a man at rest from his troubles.

Glyn Rhys has taken this face as the symbol for his latest collection of poetry and prose, chiefly because of his acquaintance with the phenomenon of ritual death associated with the bog of Cors Caron in Ceredigion. The poet lives on the edge of Cors Caron, in a house once owned by Edward Richard (the eighteenth-century poet and schoolmaster, a writer of "pastorals"). The influence of this geographical feature, now recognised for its significance as a nature reserve, on Mr Rhys’s writing is immediately apparent.

Glyn Rhys does not write only about Wales. In the course of his life he has drawn inspiration from rural and urban landscapes as far away as France and Morocco. This, far from comforting me, makes me uncertain about the purpose of the book, which comes across as something of a hotch-potch. It is not that the individual pieces of work are badly-written or that they are uninteresting in themselves, but I cannot quite see the point of the collection. Parts of it is concerned with notable men who are in some way linked with the author – for example, one poem is purely about the arms of Professor Leopold Kohr, and is accompanied by a colour picture of the arms and a photograph of their owner.

It has occurred to me that, as Wales becomes "cool" and its inhabitants develop a healthy interest in their own culture and history, Wales-based publishers have taken advantage of the trend to produce a splurge of books that in many cases have no literary merit other than having been written by Welsh people and being about Wales. Indeed, some publishers seem to have the knack of obtaining grants for such "projects". I do not necessarily include this book in the same category, and maybe it is my own fault that I did not "get" it.

I love to read about Wales, and I love to read well-written work, but I do not want to read, or own, books that have been cobbled together under the pretence of contributing to our understanding of the country. Some of the poems in this volume could have been left in a bottom drawer; some of their content could have been better written in prose. It did not all need to be published, and I wish that some of it had not been.

 

ISBN 0 86243 981 7
Y Lolfa, 2007
101ppm illustrated paperback
Retail price 5.95

Review by Deborah Fisher