Remembering Hedd Wyn (1887 – 1917)
The harps to which we sang are hung
On willow boughs, and their refrain
Drowned by the anguish of the young
Whose blood is mingled with the rain.
– Hedd Wyn, cyfieithiad Alan Llwyd
On 31 July, 1917, exactly 100 years ago, Ellis Evans – better known by his bardic name, Hedd Wyn – died during the Battle of Passchendaele. Weeks after his death, his poem ‘Yr Arwr’ (The Hero) won the 1917 Eisteddfod Bardic Chair (the highest honour bestowed to Welsh language poets). When the tragedy was revealed during the ceremony, a black cloth was dramatically draped across the chair. The poet of the ‘Black Chair’ later became a symbol of a generation lost during the First World War.
The centenary of Hedd Wyn’s death is marked throughought 2017 with a variety of activities including performances, book launches, live discussions, and the re-opening of Yr Ysgwrn, Hedd Wyn’s former home and now a centre run by Snowdonia National Park Authority.
Barddoniaeth Colled | Poetry of Loss
In March 2017, Literature Wales announced an international programme of activities commemorating the First World War with special emphasis on Hedd Wyn called Barddoniaeth Colled | Poetry of Loss. The project is delivered by Literature Wales, funded by the Welsh Government’s Cymru’n Cofio Wales Remembers 1914-1918 First World War Centenary Programme, and in partnership with the Government of Flanders and Snowdonia National Park Authority.
The year-long project includes: an evening of poetry, prose, music and discussion on Hedd Wyn at Passa Porta, Brussels (held on 23 May, 2017. Pictures from the event can be seen here); The 2017 Glyn Jones Lecture delivered by Ifor ap Glyn at the Hay Festival; a writers’ residency exchange (further information below); and a multimedia poetry performance by National Poet of Wales, Ifor ap Glyn entitled Y Gadair Wag, to be toured in September (further information below).
As part of the year-long Barddoniaeth Colled | Poetry of Loss project, Literature Wales announced an opportunity for a Welsh poet to complete a three week literary residency at Passa Porta – the International House of Literature in Brussels. The residency was undertaken by poet and academic Nerys Williams, who spent her time exploring the parallels between Hedd Wyn and Irish poet Francis Ledwidge, who also died on 31 July 1917.
In November, a Flemish writer will undertake a literary residency at Tŷ Newydd Writing Centre as part of the project.
Y Gadair Wag (The Empty Chair)
As a result of the Great War, many chairs at many tables were left empty. Using film and experimental techniques, this new show by Ifor ap Glyn, National Poet of Wales, directed by Ian Rowlands, looks at Hedd Wyn’s life and works alongside other WWI poets, and explores themes of loss and identity.
Following the opening performance on 9 September 2017 at Yr Ysgwrn, Trawsfynydd, Y Gadair Wag will embark on a tour where it will visit a variety of locations around Wales and Ireland throughought September. This show is suitable for Welsh and English-language audiences alike with translations of the original Welsh work projected during the performance.
Ifor ap Glyn has also edited the book Canrif yn Cofio – Hedd Wyn 1917-2017 (Gwasg Carreg Gwalch), and on Remembrance Sunday 2016, Ifor’s poem ‘Terasau’ was projected onto the Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben) as part of UK Parliament’s contribution to the centenary commemorations.
Y Gadair Wag is part of the wider Barddoniaeth Colled | Poetry of Loss project.
On Monday 31 July, Yr Ysgwrn will host a number of events to mark the centenary of Hedd Wyn’s death. At 11.00 am, visitors can watch Mewn Cymeriad/In Character Hedd Wyn, a family show which will bring Hedd Wyn’s story to life; at 2.00 pm Myrddin ap Dafydd, Ifor ap Glyn and others will discuss the new volume Canrif yn Cofio – Hedd Wyn 1917-2017; and at 3.00 pm there will be performances by Sioned Wyn-Evans and Aelwyd Penllyn.
Activities are free of charge, however there is a fee for entry into Yr Ysgwrn. For further information, contact Yr Ysgwrn: 01766 772 508 / firstname.lastname@example.org
The Anglesey National Eisteddfod
Below is a list of activities at the National Eisteddfod commemorating Hedd Wyn. The National Eisteddfod is held between 4 – 12 August near the village of Bodedern, LL65 3SS.
Friday 4 August, 8.00 pm, The Pavilion
Opening Concert, A Oes Heddwch?
Monday 7 August, 12.30 pm, Y Babell Lên
Bywyd fy ewythr, Hedd Wyn: Mererid Hopwood interviewing Hedd Wyn’s nephew, Gerald Williams
Friday 11 August, 12.45 pm, Y Babell Lên
‘Canrif yn Cofio Hedd Wyn’ with National Poet of Wales, Ifor ap Glyn and Myrddin ap Dafydd.
Supported by Literature Wales
Friday 11 August, 2.30 pm, Llannerch
Anni Llŷn discusses how she developed the Mewn Cymeriad show on Hedd Wyn
Friday 11 August, 3.30 pm Llannerch
Iola Wyn interviews Haf Llewelyn about her new book I Wyneb y Ddrycin, Hedd Wyn, Yr Ysgwrn a’r Rhyfel Mawr (Cyhoeddiadau Barddas).