20 QUESTIONS... MERERID HOPWOOD

To mark 20 years of Hay Festival Winter Weekend, we are asking speakers and performers to answer 20 questions. Here's how poet Mererid Hopwood responded...


1. If you could put one question to anyone on the planet, who would you choose and what would it be?

Carlos Alvarado Quesada, president of Costa Rica.

‘Will you come to Wales and show us how to run a country without a military?’

2. What was the last book you read and loved?

Gwyn Y Carw Cloff, by Tudur Dylan Jones and Valériane Leblond. I received my copy last night and know already that it will be on my Christmas favourite list forever more.

3. What are you most proud of?

My grandson, Aneirin.

4. What was the best question you were ever asked in an event and how did you answer it?

I’m not sure if it was the best question, but it was a revealing one that has stayed with me. Luckily, it had a very easy answer.

Q: Why do they call the poetry prize you won in Wales a ‘chair’?

A: Well ... because it is a chair.

5. What one piece of advice do you wish you could give your 16-year-old self?

Don’t worry about it.

6. What's the most famous book you've never read?

There are too many of these. Tolstoy’s War and Peace comes to mind.

7. What author or book do you think is most underrated? And why?

William Morris’ Glossary of the Demetian Dialect. It’s full to the brim of delicious words that were alive and well two, maybe three, generations ago, but have since almost disappeared. Words like ‘torwino’ which is a verb that describes the leaves as they turn inside out and show their shiny side to the wind, when they know, long before we do, that it’s going to rain.

8. Which writers today will still be read 100 years from now?

Though I can’t be sure who the writers will be, I do feel sure that those writing in Welsh today will still have a readership in 2119 and the readership will be more numerous and diverse. But to answer with specific names, as he is celebrating his 100th birthday this year, I’ll keep my entry to one: Emyr Humphreys.

9. Favourite word?

‘Kugelschreiber’ (German for ‘ballpoint pen’; the meaning is bland but the sounds, the shapes of the vowels like waves moving towards and then away from the ‘sch’ in the middle, are beautiful.)

10. Least favourite word?

‘Data’

11. What is the first thing you wrote?

The first thing I remember is a ‘poem’ about the then new 50p piece for a radio competition.

12. What one thing should each writer know before they begin?

Better the recycling bin than the shredder. When light comes, yesterday’s lines might be better than you feared. You’ll know. And if not, then let them go.

13. Where's your favourite place to write?

I’m not too fussy about a place, (though Pencaer, Pembrokeshire is near perfect). However I do find it helps to feel sure that I’m not going to be disturbed for a little while.

14. Pen and paper, or laptop?

Depends.

15. Favourite book of 2019?

I hope this answer counts because I haven’t read this book. I have only heard it. I don’t think it’s available yet in print. But it needs to be. Or at least, I need to read it, slowly and out loud: Ed Thomas’ On Bear Ridge.

16. Favourite book to read at Christmas?

William Morgan’s 1588 version of John’s gospel, 1,verses 1-5 ... and see 2 above.

17. What is the best book you've ever been gifted, and who gave it to you?

My grandmother’s autograph book, given to me by my mother.

18. What books are you most excited about reading in 2020?

A Repertory of Welsh Manuscripts and Scribes up to 1800 by the brilliant Daniel Huws. It’s a study of seven centuries’ worth of manuscripts in the Welsh language and the hands that wrote them. I can’t wait!

19. Best Hay Festival memory?

The first reading; and the case of champagne, now empty of wine but as full of gadget-wires as my heart was of nerves that evening, is a strangely useful reminder of it.

20. What are you working on right now?

An experiment that mainly, or perhaps only, has meaning in the place where languages meet.


Mererid Hopwood is an award-winning Welsh poet and translator of Geiriau Diflanedig – a Welsh-language version of Jackie Morris and Robert Macfarlane’s The Lost Words. She appears alongside Jackie Morris to talk about the new book at Hay Festival Winter Weekend on Saturday 30 November 2019 - buy tickets here