This Prize Evening meant an awful lot to me. Abersychan is my old school, a very good one back in the coalfield day, and even though it now has a spanking new frontage facing in a completely different direction (north-facing, up valley towards Blaenafon, if my school geography hasn't let me down) and a fully comprehensive intake (it was a Grammar-Techncial school when I went and briefly taught there.) It is still the root of a lot of what I have done since.
So when I walked over the mountain in the gathering dusk from Pontnewynydd, following my old truancy trail, and entered via the old smoker's lane (now Incline Road) I found myself looking at the landscape of my novel River Deep Mountain High. I was also almost as nervous sat with the front row big wigs facing the even bigger wigs on the stage (lots of these) as I used to be when giving the prefect's reading in Prayers or about to make my speech as Anarchist candidate in the school elections.
I was asked to 'say a few words about poetry'. 'But I was told there was no need to say anything'. 'Oh no, I think you must.' 'I'll just say who the prize is in honour of, then' 'Oh, no, I'll do that. You say about the poetry.'
So here I was, as tense as a schoolboy, wondering what I could say off the cuff that summed up what this lifelong activity of mine means to me and what it might mean to them. And there were an awful lot of them, pupils, parents, teachers, dignitaries, including Roy Noble OBE. Alan Brown, my A level English teacher at Abersychan and my first head of Department was one of those rare teachers who said everything that needed to be said in a few well chosen words, a good advert for the verbal economy of poetry and a good guide to public speaking for me. Mentioning Mr Brown's brevity and verbal pertinence as I took the microphone, I said 'poetry won't make you rich financially but it will make you rich inwardly and in terms of your experience, so I commend it to you'. Then, relying on the smooth organisation of the lady handing me the right shield at the right time, I presented the prize and shook a few Year 8 and 9 hands. Then I started really enjoy the evening.
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