Call Us:  +44 7772 312 665    Email Us:

Quick Find:    
Book list
Art, architecture & media
D.M. Thomas
Fire and police
First World War
Lesser used languages of Europe
Literary criticism
Painting and its laws
Pioneering women
Revolutionary history
Short Fiction
Traditions and customs
Forthcoming books
Lesser Used Languages of Europe
Out of print
Contact Us
Follow us
Twitter Logo

Facebook Logo
  Top » Catalog » Pages » Reviews
The Wheel An anthology of modern poetry in Cornish 1850-1980

Click here for more information about this book

Reviewed by Gwyn Griffiths in the Morning Star January 2000

It is generally accepted that the Cornish language died in 1777 with the passing of one Dolly Pentreth. I suspect the myth to be an imperialist ploy – take away the language of the colonised and then steal or declare as irrelevant rubbish, their history.

I can say with certainty that there were Cornish immigrants who spoke the language in the leadmine villages of North Cardiganshire, Mid-Wales, in the 1850s.

But allowing for the probability that the language survived in some Cornish parishes not much beyond the later part of the last century, it has to be said that it is nothing less than a miracle that the language today is undergoing a remarkable resurrection. There are, I am told, 3,000 people able to converse in the language with a reasonable degree of fluency.

More remarkable is that there are poets who choose to write in the language as revealed in The Wheel. The anthology covers the period 1850-1980 and the poems – over 100 by 36 poets – have been collected and edited by Tim Saunders.

Saunders was born in Northumberland and spent his childhood in Cornwall. He describes the anthology as the result of a personal quest. ‘It was through poetry that I discovered the Cornish language, and poetry led me further into it,' he writes.

Saunders is well-read and an impressive linguist, a writer and journalist who is also capable of working in Welsh, Irish, Breton and French.

In an informative foreword, Bobi Jones, formerly professor of Welsh at Aberystwyth University and one-time tutor to Saunders, describes him as ‘an almost reformed but never subdued rebel, a spiritually minded Marxist, who cannot conform completely to the rigours of the left.'

This attractively produced volume includes an admirable introduction by Saunders himself and a valuable history of the Cornish revival by Amy Hale.

In 1998, Cornwall suffered the loss of the last remaining Cornish tin mine, South Crofty. ‘The end of this ancient and most Cornish of industries had a marked effect, mobilising the general populace around a variety of Cornish issues and igniting fresh calls for cultural preservation and economic regeneration,' says Hale.

In 1997, the Cornish pressure group Keskerdh Kernow (Cornwall Marches On) marched from St Keverne to London to commemorate the Cornish rebellion of 1497.

The poets draw inspiration from the old Celtic legends of Arthur and Tristan and the land and sea. They are sometimes serious, sometimes witty.

I will mention J A N Snell, who reflects the wealth and variety of the anthology. At times, he is scathing, turning his words against the multinationals, as in Pyu a Vyn Prena Breten? (Who Will Buy Britain?). At other times, he is romantic, as in An Ros (The Wheel), where he ponders an industrial past and an ‘old water wheel, tangled in clay and briars and rust.'

One of his poems, written in memory of a young man who drowned as a result of a canoeing accident, has a breath taking beauty.

English translations, modestly described as prose, appear alongside the original Cornish text. I say modestly, since the word prose is descriptive of the form rather than the poetic quality. The translation is invariably of a high order.

To produce this gem of a book Tim Saunders has trawled endlessly through books, magazines, duplicated leaflets and unpublished manuscripts.

Best Sellers
01.From Bow to Biennale
02.Hark! The Glad Sound of Cornish Carols
03.The Old Red Tongue
04.Cornwalls First Golden Age
06.Celebrating Pevsner
07.Grains of Gold
08.The Way Back
09.Surfing Tommies
10.Scoot Dances
Forthcoming Books
Featured Books
Regular Cornish language classes with Mick Paynter.

London. The Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Gallery permanent exhibition of women in medicine.

First Sunday of every month, Redruth. Shout with the Red River singers.

Second Wednesday of every month, Luxulyan. Prys Ton – Cornish Music Session.

Until 6 May 2018, Leicester. Lancelot Ribeiro: A Voyage of Discovery, an exhibition tracing the story of this important Indian artist.

5 March 2018, Bodmin. Gool Perran – St Piran’s Tide procession and street dance at Mount Folly.

5 March 2018, Newquay. Gool Perran – St Piran’s Tide procession through Newquay followed by a singing session.

6th, 13th, 20th, 27th March 2018, Cornwall. Singing rehearsals for the Man Engine events.

10 March 2018, Manchester. Discover the suffrage movement through papers, posters and performance at the People’s History Museum.

10 March 2018, Bude. Closing Dance at the Pagan Regional Conference with Merv and Alison Davey.

13 March 2018, Salisbury Cathedral. A talk by Elizabeth Crawford about Millicent Fawcett and her circle.

15 March 2018, London. Book Launch of The Red Vial by Wilkie Collins with dramatic readings from the play by Di Sherlock and Simon Vaughan.

24 March 2018, Southwark Cathedral. Elizabeth Crawford gives an illustrated talk: Pictures and Politics: the art of suffrage propaganda.

24 March 2018, Museum of London Elizabeth Crawford joins a panel discussion on the legacy of the suffrage movement through the eyes of contemporary writers.

31st March 2018, Pendeen. Man Engine Resurrection Tour afternooner event at the Geevor Tin Mine.

Friday 30 March to Monday 30 April 2018, Cornwall. Alan M. Kent’s new play, The Incredible Balti Celtic Carpet Ride tour, tours Cornwall.

1 April 2018, Pool. Man Engine Resurrection Tour afternooner event at Heartlands, Pool.

5 April 2018, London. Launch of Art and Suffrage with a Q&A with the author Elizabeth Crawford.

7 April 2018 2018, Newquay. Nos Dons Kernow / Cornish dance night with Tan Ha Dowr.

19 April 2018, St Just. Cornish music at Trevithick Day, Camborne.

28 April 2018, Camborne. Man Engine Resurrection Tour afternooner event at Heartlands, Pool.