Beirniadaeth Daniel G. Williams’ adjudication

We were asked to adjudicate between seven pieces, all varied in terms of length and style.

There were no weak pieces though some struck us as being overviews of particular themes lacking any great originality. Three pieces merited this first Emyr Humphreys prize, a view shared by all adjudicators.

Gary Raymond’s ‘Prince of Wales Bridge: Symbolism of a Sign‘, first appearing on the lively Wales Arts Review website, is a characteristically punchy and intelligent response to the renaming of the Severn Bridge. The hero, or rather villain of the piece is the (still) Secretary of State for Wales, Alun Cairns – more ‘medieval minstrel minstrel charged with walking a few steps behind Theresa May singing songs about her legendary battles’ than politician. Cairns, Raymond concludes, ‘has been of more use to the prime minister than he has been to Wales, and in that regard he is precisely in the strongest traditions of Tories who have filled that office.’

This has, of course, been said many times before, but it deserves to be said again. Raymond directs his ire at Cairns, but might also have considered the role of the Labour Government in Wales. First Minister Carwyn Jones seemed to endorse, with some enthusiasm, the new ‘gantry plaque’ that ‘spits triumphantly in the faces of every driver and passenger with all that is symbolizes’.

Mark Redfern crossed the bridge with his nose in front, and is the English language winner of this year’s prize for his Planet article ‘When Vice Came to Swansea’.

Emyr Humphreys has always been attuned to, and has been a forensic analyzer of, the ways in which people view each other as individuals and as groups: the ways in which different religious denominations viewed each other in the early volumes of ‘The Land of the Living’ series; views across the Atlantic in The Anchor Tree; views across divides of class and generation in the short stories. This piece has something in common with Humphreys’s dissection in a well-known essay (collected in the interviews with M. Wynn Thomas, Conversations and Reflections) of Matthew Arnold’s imperial gaze into Wales.

Redfern damns the makers of a globally popular Vice documentary for the condescending and sensationalist ways in which they see Wales in general, and the heroin problem in Swansea in particular. The nicely evidenced article deconstructs the cliches amassed in a film that ultimately functions to give the impression that ‘drug-taking and sexual degradation is the instinctual Welsh reaction to poverty’. Redfern concludes powerfully by noting that ‘Wales doesn’t need dirty-realist B-movies to tackle drug-related deaths. It needs law reform and decriminalistion’.

Ways of seeing also inform Mererid Hopwood’s article ‘Doethineb Iaith’ originally published in O’r Pedwar Gwynt, which wins the Welsh-language prize this year.

It is a lucid, beautifully written piece that is – simultaneously – a call for the study of languages, an engagement with J. R Jones’s question as to whether ‘the language must divide us’, and an argument that languages are potentially both malleable and inclusive. In the philosophic stand-off between ‘the universal’ and ‘the particular’, minority languages are seen, invariably, to belong to the latter. ‘Universalism’, so the imperial (and South Walian) narrative goes can only be embodied in a ‘world language’.

Not so, claims Mererid Hopwood, reinforcing an argument that has also been made by Emyr Humphreys in the form of novels, essays and in his magisterial overview of Welsh literature, in both main languages, The Taliesin Tradition. Due to the malleability of language, all languages have an internal diversity of their own.  The Welsh language can incorporate others into into its particularism. Hopwood’s central argument is one that chimes with the life and work of Emyr Humphreys; that the universal is to be found within the particular.

Daniel G. Williams

 

Gofynnwyd i ni ddyfarnu rhwng saith darn, pob un yn amrywio o ran arddull a hyd.

Nid oedd unrhyw ddarnau gwan, er mai trosolwg o themâu penodol a gafwyd mewn ambell achos, heb unrhyw wreiddioldeb mawr. Roedd y beirniaid yn gytûn bod tri darn yn haeddu eu hystyried o ddifri ar gyfer Gwobr Emyr Humphreys yn ei flwyddyn gyntaf.

Ymateb nodweddiadol di-flewyn-ar-dafod a deallus i ailenwi Pont Hafren yw ysgrif Gary Raymond, ‘The Prince of Wales Bridge: Symbolism of a Sign‘, a ymddangosodd gyntaf ar wefan fywiog Wales Arts Review. Arwr, neu yn hytrach ddihiryn, y darn yw Ysgrifennydd Gwladol Cymru, Alun Cairns – dyn sydd yn ymdebygu yn fwy i ‘medieval minstrel charged with walking a few steps behind Theresa May singing songs about her legendary battles’ na gwleidydd. Daw Raymond i’r casgliad fod Cairns wedi bod ‘of more use to the prime minister than he has been to Wales, and in that regard he is precisely in the strongest tradition of Tories who have filled that office.’

Mae hyn wedi cael ei ddweud lawer gwaith o’r blaen, wrth gwrs, ond mae’n haeddu cael ei ddweud eto. Tra bod Raymond yn anelu ei ddicter at Cairns, gallai hefyd fod wedi ystyried rôl y Llywodraeth Lafur yng Nghymru. Roedd yn ymddangos bod y Prif Weinidog, Carwyn Jones, yn cymeradwyo, gyda pheth brwdfrydedd, y ‘plac gantry’ newydd ‘that spits triumphantly in the faces of every driver and passenger with all that it symbolizes’.

Croesodd Mark Redfern y bont gyda’i drwyn ar y blaen, ac ef yw enillydd y wobr iaith Saesneg eleni am ei erthygl yn Planet, ‘When Vice Came to Swansea’.

Mae gwaith Emyr Humphreys yn aml yn ymwneud â’r ffyrdd y mae pobl yn gweld ei gilydd, fel unigolion ac fel cymunedau: gwahanol enwadau crefyddol yng nghyfrolau cynnar cyfres ‘The Land of the Living’; agweddau tuag at yr Unol Daleithiau yn The Anchor Tree; canfyddiadau pobl ar draws ffiniau dosbarth a chenhedlaeth yn y straeon byrion. Mae gan y darn hwn rywbeth yn gyffredin â dadansoddiad Humphreys, mewn traethawd adnabyddus (a gasglwyd yn y gyfrol o gyfweliadau gyda M. Wynn Thomas, Conversations and Reflections) ynghylch agwedd trefedigaethol Matthew Arnold tuag at Gymru.

Ymosod, wna Redfern, ar raglen ddogfen ‘Vice’ boblogaidd am ei bortread nawddoglyd o Gymru yn gyffredinol, a’r broblem heroin yn Abertawe yn benodol. Mae’n dadadeiladu ystrydebau’r ffilm, gan feirniadu’r gwneuthurwyr am roi’r argraff fod ‘drug-taking and sexual degradation is the instinctual Welsh reaction to poverty’. Daw’r erthygl i ben yn rymus drwy nodi, ‘Wales doesn’t need dirty-realist B-movies to tackle drug-related deaths. It needs law reform and decriminalistion’.

Ffyrdd o weld a deall ein gilydd yw un o themau erthygl Mererid Hopwood, ‘Doethineb Iaith’, hefyd. Fe’i cyhoeddwyd yn wreiddiol yn O’r Pedwar Gwynt, ac mae’n cipio’r wobr Gymraeg eleni.

Darn eglur ei fynegiant a chywrain ei arddull yw hwn, sydd yn nodi pwysigrwydd astudio ieithoedd, yn ymrafael â chwestiwn J. R Jones ‘a oes rhaid i’r iaith ein gwahannu’, ac yn dadlau bod hunaniaeth ieithyddol â’r gallu i fod yn agored a chynhwysol. Yn yr ymgiprys athronyddol rhwng ‘y cyffredinol’ a’r ‘neilltuol’, tueddir i gysylltu ieithoedd lleiafrifol gyda’r neilltuol. Dim ond mewn ‘iaith fyd-eang’ y gellir ymgyrraedd at y cyffredinol yn ôl y trefedigaethwyr Prydeinig a lladmeryddion ‘South Wales’ fel ei gilydd.

Ond nid felly y mae, medd Mererid Hopwood, gan atgyfnerthu dadl a wnaed hefyd gan Emyr Humphreys ar ffurf nofelau, traethodau ac yn ei astudiaeth o lenyddiaeth Cymru yn y ddwy brif iaith, The Taliesin Tradition. Gall unrhywun ddysgu iaith, ac oherwydd bod iaith yn agored mae gan bob iaith ei hamrywiaeth fewnol ei hun. Gall y Gymraeg, er yn iaith leiafrifol neilltuol, ymgorffori eraill yn ei neilltuolrwydd. Mae dadl ganolog Hopwood yn cynganeddu â bywyd a gwaith Emyr Humphreys; bod y cyffredinol i’w ganfod o fewn y neilltuol.

Daniel G. Williams