REVIEW by Éadaoín Lynch

NWR Issue 107

Cheval 7

by Jonathan Edwards and Alan Perry (eds)

Cheval, the publication for winning entrants to the Terry Hetherington Young Writers’ Award, produced its seventh anthology last year. Its aim, ‘to provide a platform for young people to express themselves through the medium of poetry and prose’, lives on as a dedication to the late Terry Hetherington, whose ethos was of encouragement and support. Hetherington was a creative writing teacher and significance source of comfort and assistance for young Welsh writers. Terry Hetherington’s portfolio

Entries are arranged alphabetically according to the author’s surname, with the exception of the dedicatory poem to Terry Hetherington, Nigel Jenkins’ ‘Some Lines to Request Poteen’, and four poems by Hetherington himself which bookend the anthology. Welsh references abound in each piece within the collection, particularly the three winning entries, Robin Ganderton’s ‘And So We Beat On’, Siôn Tomos Owen’s ‘Every Cloud’, and Georgia Carys Williams’ ‘Turnstones’.

Ganderton’s short story took first prize for the award, having deftly utilised the difficult form of vignettes, and in less than ten pages offers a tender insight into his characters, such as ‘We cannot believe, we will not believe, and we do not believe until one pale yellow day in early April, with sunbeams raking the carpet, when he picks up his Tanglewood and slowly, hesitatingly, beings to pick out a tune.’

The first poem of the collection, Maria Apichella’s ‘Fire’, displays a thorough understanding of the intensity of the lyric form, with its powerful last line, ‘My prayer will burn for days.’ Emily Blewett’s ‘Noir’, a poem that was highly commended for the award, illustrates a progressive use of mythology mixed in with modern life:

I have wanted the killer-blow: / my femme fatale, her smile glowing… / Thin, expensive cigarettes / lit by someone, somewhere else.

Tom Gatehouse’s short story, ‘Portugese Lesson: O Acidente’, fuses English and Portugese seamlessly. His accompanying poem, a villanelle, demonstrates his dexterity and confidence. Similarly, Natalie Ann Holobrow’s ‘London’ is an astonishingly vivid poem, capturing the essence of the British capital, with ‘cindered veins’, ‘Primrose Hill, rolled wide by the fog’, and ‘slack-jawed Highgate’. In addition, Luke Smith’s story ‘From Cambridge to King’s Cross’, illustrates a self-consciousness that conceals the youth of its author. The internal monologue form interspersed with the main character’s own prose writing within the story represents the high standard of writing and willingness to experiment that can be seen throughout Cheval 7.

The last seventy pages are devoted to commended entrants and previous winners’ new work, notably Glyn Edwards’ ‘The Grave of a Ground’, which requires the reader to fold out the page and read the literally, and significantly, cross-shaped poem and its powerful use of language:

Outside the club is an ashen mound. A handful / of black sawdust, weightless and portentous. / A coffin is not as heavy as a death.

The experimentations with form in both prose and poetry highlight the considerable abilities of the Welsh writers published here. As Aida Birch outlines in the Foreword, ‘The 2014 Terry Hetherington Young Writers’ Award brought the judges of the competition a very hard task indeed. The submissions have all been particularly praiseworthy.’ Many of the works published here read as though written by established authors, displaying a confidence in tone, content and form that belies their experience.

As represented on Cheval 7’s striking front cover, 2014 had a special significance as the centenary of Dylan Thomas’ birth and the beginning of World War One. As such, Jonathan Edwards outlines in the preface, ‘2014 is the year of looking backwards.” But Cheval 7 is 'a book… that looks relentlessly forward.’ The talent of its writers promises a great deal in the future.

Éadaoín Lynch is a contributor to [i:New Welsh Review online

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