Something to celebrate today: Giles Watson's launch of his online book, Dafydd ap Gwilym: Paraphrases and Palimpsests, a collection of modern English paraphrases of the works of the fourteenth century Welsh poet Dafydd ap Gwilym. It contains paraphrases of 52 poems by Dafydd, and an elegy by Iolo Goch. Watson has also illustrated the book with paintings, drawings and photographs. As he says, "The paraphrases have been prepared by comparison of existing prose translations with the original texts, and the aim has been to echo some of the rhythms and cadences of the Welsh verse. I am not, alas, a Welsh speaker, and the project has been merely a labour of love, but I do know Welsh speakers who have enjoyed them. I do not intend to stop paraphrasing Dafydd but it seemed like a good time to put out a “first edition”. It is currently available here (for free, of course)."
This all sounds sounds horridly daunting, if not physically painful, especially those palimpsests.
I assure you that Dafydd ap Gwilym: Paraphrases and ... is a treat.
Watson is what a scholar should be, not to mention a poet, artist, and historian. An addict of the curious, and a passionate perfectionist of sensuality and meaning. This book is both fun and lush. The poems are surprisingly contemporary. Read, for instance, the damning one about one of those newfangled mechanical clocks waking the sleeper from a sexy dream, and the impotent rage the ex-sleeper feels.
I have previously told you how much I love Giles Watson's poetry. I nagged him privately to write more, hopefully a book, and to make sure it contains his wonderful footnotes. This is a treasure that he has produced. I'm so glad that it's probably too fine a work to go the rounds of publishing house rejections.