Nothing Broken: Recent Poetry in Cornish, edited by Tim Saunders ... contains work by poets born between 1917 and 1977. One bears the surname Chaudri; another is American, author of probably the first gay love poem in Cornish. We have always favoured writers having real jobs, and these poets’ professions range from revenue officer for Penzance (Mick Paynter) to clergyman (Michael Palmer) to chemical engineer (Jowann Richards). Several have alternative bardic names, such as Worm’s Fool, Moor of Thorns, or, in the case of Ann Trevenen Jenkin, Bryallen – “Primrose”. There are long poems (one by Saunders himself), love lyrics, political verse (“Kows Kernewek... Na wra omblegya”; “Speak in Cornish ... No surrender”) and many poems about the sea (mor), its sailors and creatures. Thanks to Neil Kennedy’s “Brilli a Clappia”, we know that the vivid Cornish word for makerel is brilli ... [Saunders] believes there is a significant group “who think and feel in Cornish. The language articulates their experience, gives voice to their national aspirations”. The implication is that some Cornish speakers have separatist intentions, expressed by Cliff Stephens (b 1961) in his poem about the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. In translation – what Stephens calls “the foreign tongue” – it begins “ England mouns the death of a princess, / And so we must mourn too / For the ex-wife of an uncaring Duke / Who used Cornish money ...”.
NB, Times Literary Supplement, 21 August 2009
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