Nerys Williams: This New Life

This New Life

In grieving love

                        Cymer fy llygaid

See thought my sight

it frames the imaginary

recentring space

occupying the circumference

How love becomes my body

                        Anadl mewn

                                     cri’r canu

                        F’ enaid noeth

Bleached  and bounded

Soul-saviour nude

                        Canna f’enaid yn y gwaed

Downward sight

its encounter

Love’s pallor

                        Canna fi // cana fi

Sing the rememory

clear sighted




At the age of nine the girl felt thunder in her chest, a catching, its glance to be hurt and happy simultaneously. In re-reading Dante’s The New Life, she was struck by its anatomy of the emotions, how the lyric I and the spectating eye work in tandem. She caught his glance, remembered the veins on his arms, kicked her trainers in the dirt. The succession of Gabriel blonded  boys – a pattern of occurrences that followed her as a teenager into adulthood. The significance of Dante using the nine-year intervals; meeting Beatrice at 9 losing her at 18 although literary historians challenge this as a strategic ‘framing’. Even in the 1970s unuttered love is most potent. It was so easy being ironic when love flattened into disco, bodywarmers red, blue, green and yellow lights in a village hall. Dante’s thinking is itself ‘a poetics’. She learnt how love starts with the eyes and ends with the mouth, he was stacking the dishwasher at Welsh language camp, wearing a Synchronicity t-shirt. Was Dante’s reference to the centre of the circumference, a reference to man- ‘with you it is not thus’ he says. Did he have a premonition of her death? I am turning the speculative sight from boy to girl to woman and man. Eyes downturned she smiled. But then looked back hungrily, as he walked towards her. Asked her to dance. The PA was playing Welsh folk music- the dancers were in a ring. The poet adds: And here my senses clamour in the rout. She spoke in surprised broken Welsh. ‘Mor bles’, more blessed.



Originally from West Wales, Nerys Williams lives in Kells Co Meath and lectures in poetry and poetics at University College, Dublin. She is the author of two volumes of poetry Sound Archive (Seren 2012), Cabaret (New Dublin Press, 2017) and a third Republic (prose poems) is forthcoming from Seren in 2023.  Nerys has written books and articles on modern and contemporary poetry. She is currently writing on the collaborative relationship between poets and radio producers at the BBC’s Third Programme.


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