In mid-January 2016, I attended a residency in mid-Wales. Wales in January. This was a date I selected because, living in Dubai, I'd forgotten what it was like to be cold. This is my account of my time in the briefly unheated house.
I attended the Stiwdiomaelor residency in Corris, Wales a few months after the Can Serrat Residency in El Bruc, Spain. These residencies helped me survive my time in Dubai.
At Can Serrat, I worked on Dear Z poems.
It was cold in the residency house. I was given a writing room on the second floor facing the street. There was so much rain. I watched it run off the slate roofs, down the slate blocks on the front of buildings. The sky, the roofs, the buildings, the street—everything within in the landscape—was grey cold.
I bought long underwear at the Co-op in Machynlleth, wore those, all my jackets, a scarf while I sat in the writing room. To defrost my brain, I played with lists of words and some photos on computer. I welcomed the colors in the pictures. Eventually, the heat in the house was turned on. The rain stopped for more than a day.
I walked around Corris. The first half of the time I was there, a nature painter from the area was there. She knew the names of the trees and plants. She spoke Welsh. Told me, in English, stories about the sheep—why the males have shades of red chalk on their chests (females are marked with red, indicating the male mated with them)—and talked about the slate quarry. She left after my first week.
For the second half, there were two new artists in the house. One of them, from the UK and knew Wales well, had a car and three of us went on a road trip to the north and south. I took a lot of pictures.
There's a line in Star Wars Rogue One where Jyn, after living in the desert ('a junkyard planet') for her entire life, escapes and, while she's on Millennium Falcon, they fly over Takodana, an impressively lush planet—the planet has been credited as shot in Glouceshire, England—on the border of Wales—and she says: "I didn't know there was so much green in the entire galaxy."
I said that a lot when I was in Wales.
I was told the street to the town before the small residency town sometimes floods; the only way to reach the first step was by bus. This reminded me of this joke:
A motorcyclist rides along a windy country road. She reaches to a point where the road is flooded, sees a farmer, calls him over. How deep is the water? she asks. Not deep at all, he says. At that, she revs her bike and rides through—disappears completely under water. When she re-emerges, she's sputtering, her bike is sputtering. She tears off her helmet and yells, I thought you said it wasn't deep! Well, he says, it's only waist-high on the ducks.
Corris is full of the kindest, most generous people on the planet. Within 10 minutes of my arriving in this tiny town, I was welcomed by everyone. And, it seemed, was introduced to everyone who lived there—and knew quite a bit about them.
A couple of the pieces I worked on at this residency became poetry comics Annotated Man and Cassette. These pieces, or versions of them, were published in Barrelhouse.