My Experience of Tŷ Newydd by Gareth Culshaw
The idea of a writing course had started to grow in my thoughts. I had never been on one, or had known someone who had. I did an in internet search and came across many places. The one that caught my attention was closest to home and in my own homeland of Wales.
The courses for the year were already under way and I made a promise to myself that I would apply for 2015. One December night that is exactly what I did. It became one of those things in life that you forget about, you put it somewhere in your mind and carry on.
Then the news one February morning. I was accepted for the April Poetry Masterclass. My heart stopped. My mouth unzipped and out popped a smile. I was delighted. Then the nervous part hit me. I had and still do suffer with anxiety. It is mental illness, an illness that can prohibit your own world without you knowing. The idea of going somewhere new brought it back.
Meeting new people and sharing a room was not something I had thought about. The writing part had clouded everything. I had never met writers before or even read my work. Workshops and critiques of my words was again new. I was to spend the next two months building up a stew of fear.
There was a bridge I had to cross. Sharing a room with some stranger was not something I could do. Even though they would be like minded and understanding it hung too heavily on my senses. When I asked the admin girl if I could have a single room there were no problems and the obstacle was dealt with very quickly. I was over one hedge.
When I came to the house of Tŷ Newydd it woke up my eyes. I was taken back by the beauty and homeliness of the place. Straight away I was starting to soothe myself. The garden was well kept, with seating areas for all. And a feeling of togetherness and space that is important if you suffer with a mental illness.
My first evening was very much in fight or flight mode. I felt out of my depth, my heart raced, my palms sweated. I was nervous, full of random thoughts, and couldn’t wait to get home. I even planned to go Tuesday morning.
By the time I had been through two lessons, my poetry had already been unwrapped. I had always felt like I was in a lighthouse without a light. The ideas and discussion from the group gave me light. The tutors were well mannered, thoughtful, encouraging, inspiring, and best of all human.
I became aware of verbs and their power. The difficulty of adjectives and adverbs. I had whole stanza taken out of my work with delicacy and reasoning. Encouragement of my good points were expressed and I could finally start to see the hidden world behind the words.
When Wednesday dinner time came I sat at the table and a switch flicked. I didn’t want to go home. I had struggled for two whole days. Then something harvested in my heart. I walked around the house after dinner and went to the river then the sea. Tŷ Newydd had stapled herself onto my timeline. I knew she would stay here for the rest my life too.
Up until coming here in April 2015 I had been published in 5 places. I was frustrated, annoyed, lost and down. I loved poetry and wanted to make the most of it. By this date today (3/8/2017) I have been published in another 64 places and will have my first collection out in 2018 by futurecycle, USA.
I have been to Tŷ Newydd again and learnt an incredible amount. More peelings have been removed and I am starting to fruit as a poet. This could not have happened if I hadn’t have come here. The classes with Carol Ann Duffy, Gillian Clarke, Maura Dooley have inspired me to write. Their spirit, positivity, knowledge is worth the course fee alone. When you consider the quality of food, and the wonderful admin crew you start to think what a great place this really is.
But there is one thing that has happened to me since. One more life changing attachment that has come from this house. Friendship. The first time I came I had no poet friends in my life. After that first occasion I have kept in contact with five of the group. They are very close to my heart and are only a message away at any time for help.
The second time I came to Tŷ Newydd there were some people closer to where I lived. We now meet up every so many weeks. We take the car to Rhyl to visit Alice and talk poetry for hours. We have encouraged each other to join poetry groups in Shrewsbury, we have read at open mics and been published in the same places. We support each other. The friendship has blossomed to a point where I believe one day the four of us will have collections.
That would not have happened without listening to Carol Ann Duffy, Gillian Clarke, Maura Dooley. That would not have happened if the workshops weren’t enlightening, or the house fabricated with falseness. That would not have happened without the friendly atmosphere and superb location.
That would not have happened without Tŷ Newydd.
By Gareth Culshaw, August 2017
Tŷ Newydd Writing Centre is run by Literature Wales. The Centre was established in 1990, and thousands of aspiring and budding writers have since passed through our iconic teal front door.
We specialise in residential creative writing courses. Every week we welcome a new group of individuals from Wales, the rest of the UK and beyond to our home. They spend time together under the tutelage of professional writers, taking part in workshops and one-to-one tutorials, enjoying readings and basking in the inspirational setting of Tŷ Newydd.
To find out more about Tŷ Newydd, and to book a place on a course, visit: www.tynewydd.wales