Last year Disability Arts Cymru (DAC) launched its first Annual Poetry Competition. Each of the poems was written in response to a piece of artwork from DAC's Annual Touring Exhibition 2015. The winning poems are accompanied by the artworks that inspired them in an e-book, which is now being made freely available to the public.
In 2015, DAC invited entries from Deaf and disabled poets based in Wales for their inaugural Annual Poetry Competition. The brief was simple, entrants merely had to respond to or interpret a piece of work from DAC’s touring exhibition which had taken place earlier in the year. Naturally, this predicated an extremely diverse array of entries, each of them new and bespoke to the competition.
The award-winning poet Menna Elfyn – known for her passionate engagement with the Welsh language and identity – agreed to judge the competition. She was tasked with shortlisting the entries to appear in the e-book as well as picking an overall winner, runners up and commended entries. In total, 25 poems were selected to appear alongside the artwork they had responded to in the book.
“The poets in this collection have managed to create writings that are alert, incisive and compassionate and which expound the human condition. They have instilled in the reader an insight into realms that are both luminous and wondrous.”
Rose Foran secured the top prize with I Once Had a Heart, inspired by Personal independence Prayer by Bríd Wyldearth, a swirling heart-shaped vortex of technicolour brilliance. Elfyn said of the winning entry: “[it] stood out and haunted me for days, tugging at my heart… In the poem there is an intertwining of ideas and the way the poem builds is appealing.”
Des Mannay was a close second with Recovery, a response to Vivi-Mari Carpelan’s arresting collage Your indifference is breaking my heart. “There was only a heartbeat between them,” said Elfyn. “It is a fearless poem, a monologue, full of dramatic utterances and one can almost hear the words thumping aloud on the page.” Third prize went to Gwenllian Jones’ Welsh poem Cuddio Mewn Cerdd which responded to Karen Harvey’s Hidden.
Eileen Harrisson, Caroline Gill and Meg Kingston were all highly commended for their entries as was Des Mennay for his second entry All My Own Work. Taken together, the collection is a rich tapestry which interweaves some of the brightest poetic and artistic talent of Wales’ often under-appreciated Disability Arts scene.
DAC’s Annual Exhibition 2016 is currently underway, featuring the work of 40 disabled artists from across Wales, all of whom are DAC members. This year’s theme is Austerity and Extravagance. The poetry competition will run later in the year, with entries invited either on the theme or by responding to a specific artwork in the show. The winners will be included in a new e-book.
The Disability Arts Cymru Poetry Competition 2015 e-book is available to download for free.
The DAC Annual Exhibition 2016 is on at the Norwegian Church Arts Centre until 31 January.