About The Laugharne Poems by Thomas Rain Crowe
“While visiting Wales for the first time in 1993, I immediately adopted a love for the culture and community, was fondly given the name of ‘Tierec’, and was given permission (in fact, the keys) by the Carmarthen District Cultural Council to be the first person since Dylan Thomas’s death in 1953, Welsh or otherwise, to use the boathouse in Laugharne as a place from which to write. The collection The Laugharne Poems is the result of the collaboration between myself and this lovely bit of Welsh landscape–which was carried out during the summers of 1993 and 1995, while I was living and writing in the town on the River Taf. These poems try to capture certain magical moments, places, people and local histories that echo the rich and enchanting world that Dylan Thomas intimately knew and depicted in his stories and his poems.”
—Thomas Rain Crowe
Up early. Too early to be seen by any man or
woman sleeping after even a night of no drink.
Go down Gosport Street with only the rooks
awake at this hour and a couple gulls in
The Grist. Up Wogan Street past brand new
castle gates and the green grass and roses
that since the Renaissance will for the
first time feel again feet. And up to King Street
and turn right down the little lane by the Browns–to where
Brian’s bakers are up with the ovens and scurrying
around like mice on a mission, where I get my
raspberry tarts ‘special made’ old Betsy says
and smiles and one of the boys throws his thumb
in the air and I raise my sack of tarts as
high as my nose as one foot steps in the street.
‘Round the corner to the big elm tree busy with
bees, with no other noise sounds like the engine
of a UFO, where the thin lane becomes
only a path of stone or high hedge where a
single dove coos and the hedgerose opens out
to the river’s halfass tide where fish flop on
their way back to the open sea. Past the
white fence peeking through ivy and vine and
the old bench built back in the bank in the
honeysuckle that hangs over the bench like a roof.
By the little white shed of a house whitewashed where
the little old man used to live that swept the path
and kept it clear of trees, and the famous shack
which was home for cars and then the cradle
for a bloody pen now prisoner of country sleep–
And down the little lane like it was cleared for
only one man to walk by the wall and the
boathouse roof below and only brown sand beyond
and the cormorants and gulls that sound like
babies moaning for more milk, to the small
brown gate at the end where I use
my key meant for only me so I can come
down steps through flowers and small trees
and ‘round railing deck and door
down wooden steps to the table in the morning sun
for Tommy Watts
at night is
than a Buckleys
the round tables
are full of
Dai’s and Dewi’s
and George and John
at the bar
the little black cat
the voice of
the three jokers
on the one-armed bandit
in the corner
to Dylan’s chair
when he’s not watching
in the window seat
she’d just seen
Caitlin coming through the door
the same time
got up from his stool
behind the bar
a crack of lightning
just in time
for a joke and
The Fox Tree
for Sian & Carys
Along about dusk the old fox slips out from
the hedge for the bit of dole I’ve left
for him made from leftovers of today’s lunch.
Thin, shaggy and with a coat of grey, he hobbles
on a bad leg up to the flat stone where I
have placed the free food.
Skittish like a girl alone in a crowd
of boys, yet too old to do anything but eat,
he gobbles down the food.
Overhead the gulls and the jackdaws do their
dance on the evening wind, waiting for
the fox to wander away so senile it has
missed a morsel or even the best piece of meat.
In the end, they will all be fed–the fox
only able to eat half the human feast I’ve set out
that would be nothing more than an hors d’oeuvre
for another, half his age.
Taking the long way round, through the
rose bed and the terrace of potatoes and peas,
he disappears into the hedge
where he’ll stop at the neighbors next door.
A hundred years ago here in this village
when a cockle was as good as a buck in the bank,
and a scrounging fox would have been little
more than a thief, his skin would have been
tacked to a tree the way a man who
has been cited for murder might be
strung from a limb. A threat to the common good.
No more would that fox or that man
be able to do the hellish misdeeds it
had never really done, as the tales grew
taller as they passed from door to door
or pint to pint in the small town
like the unchecked life of a lie or the myth
of a rabbit that fed on sheep.
And so it is now, as it was then
as already there is talk in this part of town
of the three-legged fox who digs potatoes and
devours cats and is big as a wolf.
But the children have seen him and put
dogfood out for him at night before they
go to bed and out of the sight of birds.
They sing silent songs to him in Cymraeg,
do the children through their tears, and
sit around tables at breakfast
beside old men who hang on to their fears.
About Thomas Rain Crowe
Thomas Rain Crowe, Tuckasegee, North Carolina, was born in 1949 and is an internationally published and recognized author of thirty books of original and translated works. During the 1970s he lived abroad in France, then returned to the U.S. to become editor of Beatitude magazine and press in San Francisco, and one of the “Baby Beats” where he was co-founder and Director of the San Francisco International Poetry Festival.
In the 1980s, after returning to his boyhood home in North Carolina, he was a founding editor of Katuah Journal: A Bioregional Journal of the Southern Appalachians and founded New Native Press. In 1994 he founded Fern Hill Records (a recording label devoted exclusively to the collaboration of poetry and music). Almost immediately, he formed his spoken-word and music band The Boatrockers, performing widely in the Southeast and producing two CDs.
In 1998 his book The Laugharne Poems, which was written at the Dylan Thomas Boat House in Laugharne, Wales, during the summers of 1993 and 1995 with the permission of the Welsh government, was published in Wales by Gwasg Carreg Gwalch. In the same year, his ground-breaking anthology of contemporary Celtic language poets, Writing The Wind: A Celtic Resurgence (The New Celtic Poetry), which includes poetry in Welsh, Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Breton, Cornish and Manx was published in the U.S., and his first volume of translations of the poems of the 14th century Persian poet Hafiz, In Wineseller’s Street, was released. He has translated the work of Yvan Goll, Guillevic, Hugh-Alain Dal, Marc Ichall and Hafiz. In 2002 a second volume of his translations of Hafiz, Drunk on the Wine of the Beloved: 100 Poems of Hafiz, was published by Shambhala.
For six years he was Editor-at-Large for the Asheville Poetry Review. His memoir in the style of Thoreau’s Walden based on four years of self-sufficient living in a wilderness environment in the woods of western North Carolina from 1979 to 1982, Zoro’s Field: My Life in the Appalachian Woods, was published by the University of Georgia Press in the spring of 2005. It is the winner of the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association’s 2005 Ragan Old North State Award for Non-fiction as well as the Southern Environmental Law Center’s prestigious Reed Award for a best book of nonfiction on the environment.
He currently resides in the Tuckasegee community of Jackson County in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. His literary archives have been purchased by and are collected at the Duke University Special Collections Library in Durham, North Carolina.
Of his work, poet Gary Snyder writes: “I have known Thomas Crowe since the 1970s, as poet, writer, editor, and community activist. Before he returned to North Carolina he was a neighbor in my part of California. I have always respected his work and dedication as someone who has truly found both his place and his work, and recommend him highly. He speaks from a fluency with landscape and an ease with language like water. At home in both.”
About his book, The Laugharne Poems, which was published in Wales by Carreg Gwalch Press in 1997, Welsh poet Menna Elfyn has written: “As there is a restless searching and yearning in his previous poetry, there seems to be a more sympathetic catharsis in his poems written in Wales, yet even writing from the Laugharne Boat House, there are hints of home—he is the sojourner of Thoreau, evoking the spirit of Jack Hirschman. In poems written as an homage to the place, this book is as colourful as the sounds and movements of Laugharne itself. Based on the careful attention paid to detail, this surely must have been the author’s intent. These poems capture powerfully magical moments that echo the rich and enchanting world that Dylan Thomas before him depicted. Like Dylan, he seeks to cut out the formalities of life and find his own voice. Like the bardic wordiness of Dylan, also there is a sense that the poetry on the page can be enriched in live performance, and in the sheer energy of the delivery of song.”
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