Professor Tony Curtis

Poem for Aberfan

In 2016, Welsh poets Grahame Davies and Tony Curtis were commissioned to write a Sequence of poems, entitled Aberfan Voices, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Aberfan Disaster.  Each poem goes with a photograph by IC Rapoport.  This is the second of two posts introducing Grahame and Tony, sharing one each of their poems.

Both Tony and Grahame are serving as humanities scholars for my project Aberfan.  I am deeply honored and grateful for their participation in its unfolding and fullest, true expression.

Here is “Life”, written by Grahame Davies.

Life

Life is too big,

though children never know –

their world a nature-table, miniature,

seeds on a tray, a garden in a jar,

four walls of cut-out prints of autumn leaves

and a calendar that counts to Christmas.

 

Life is too big.

They never tell you that.

You’re never wise enough, never mature.

Take it from me:

your heart is never big enough

to hold it all – the deluge of the dark.

Stars are too distant

and the griefs too great.

 

Life is too big.

We try to make it fit

our columns and our canvases,

our lenses and our lines,

to make the immeasurable commensurate

with what we can contain:

words on a page,

a garden in a jar.

 

On October 21, 1966, in the small mining village of Aberfan, Wales, a man-made mountain of coal waste catastrophically collapsed on a primary school, killing 116 children and 28 adults.

Aberfan is a sponsored project of New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt organization.  Contributions on behalf of Aberfan must be made payable to NYFA, and are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.

Photo IC Rapoport,  1966

 

 

Poem for Aberfan

October 21, 2017 marked the 51st anniversary of the Aberfan Disaster.

To commemorate the 50th anniversary in 2016, Welsh poets Grahame Davies and Tony Curtis were commissioned to write a Sequence of poems, entitled Aberfan Voices, each poem with a photograph by I. C. Rapoport.

Both Tony and Grahame are serving as humanities scholars for my project Aberfan.  I am deeply honored and grateful for their participation in its unfolding and fullest expression.  Over the next few posts I will share their work.  “Where I Was” by Tony Curtis:

Where I was

 

Where were you when the old King died?

Walking to the pit-head with my butties.

 

Where were you for the Peace in Our Time?

In the parlour with Delyth and her mother’s new wireless.

 

Where were you when the bombers came?

Holding the hand of a Bevin Boy in the shivering dark.

 

Where were you when the war ended?

In the bath before our fire, hearing the church bells.

 

Where were you for the Coronation?

A mile underneath her kingdom.

 

Where were you when they put a dog in space?

Down here.

 

What about the missiles in Cuba?

We was well out of reach in the Merthyr Vale: already buried.

 

Where were you when the President was shot?

Checking my lamp and opening my snap.

 

And where were you when you heard about Aberfan?

Mid-shift, working at the face, blinded with dust that the tears

Began to wash, and the mandrel dropped

As my fists clenched, and I heard

The distant howls of men.

 

On October 21, 1966, in the small mining village of Aberfan, Wales, a man-made mountain of coal waste catastrophically collapsed on a primary school, killing 116 children and 28 adults.

Aberfan is a sponsored project of New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt organization.  Contributions on behalf of Aberfan must be made payable to NYFA, and are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.

Photo IC Rapoport,  1966