Gareth Calway: Exile In his Own Country.
To mark his 50th year and seventh book, Gareth Calway will be playing truant from his job as a teacher in Norfolk to attend the school in Abersychan, South Wales that he attended as a pupil from 1968-1974 and which provides the setting and themes of a whole section of his book, Exile In His Own Country. It is his first visit there since he returned to teach in its last term as a Grammar School in 1980.
The book was launched at King’s Lynn Ottakar’s last month as the start of a long combination of shows, readings and school workshops exploring the central theme of Exile.
The first leg of his tour is to lead a number of writing workshops at Abersychan comprehensive school before performing extracts from the next day's show, Exile in his Own Country. This performance will take place in the very hall he attended school assembly for six years as a pupil of Abersychan Grammar Technical School.
The new book adds to the literature of the Eastern valley and is surely the first to combine a sequence under the title Torfaen Monologues, wry and bitter-sweet accounts of teenage valley life in the 70s.
The book also records his Somerset childhood and his lifelong attachment to Bristol City FC, whose official poet laureate he is. His parents met on their way to a Bristol City football match and later honeymooned at Severn Beach, roughly half way between the Welsh and West country places that have shaped his writing ever since.
After his old school‘homecoming’, and another homecoming in Bristol and Chepstow, Gareth will return for a summer long tour of Norfolk venues, beginning with Sheringham Little Theatre (May 27) and the Norwich Puppet Theatre (June 2) and ending with a National Poetry Day harvest at the Cley Little Festival of poetry in October and the River studios at West Acre in November.
The book includes poetic accounts of his life as a teacher in the very different setting of Norfolk and a celebration of the East Anglian countryside. The music of Sinatra and the Beatles and the search for fulfilment in family, fatherhood, work, history, heroes/heroines, poetry and mystical searching all take turns as the sections of the book unravel.
All of these themes and settings bear on the central concern of the book which is an examination of home and exile and the position of the artist in modern life.
At 150 pages, the book is a harvest of 50 years of 20th century living and - in the 'Harvest' section - of the best of Calway's previous six books, "City Zen", "Coming Home", "Britain's Dreaming,"The Merchant of Bristol", "The House on the River" and the Bristol City-published "Sheer Paltry."
So Gareth Calway returns to school at Abersychan secondary school on May 19 2006, 35 years late but with all his homework done.
The book will be reviewed in the Western Mail on 17 June and featured in TES and TES Cymru in the last weeks of May. Reviews in poetry magazines, The Western Daily Press and The Eastern Daily Press are also scheduled.
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