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Iwrite this from a different world. Just weeks ago, the Poetry Wales tour was rolling through all the UK’s big cultural capitals – Cardiff, Hawarden, Newport – spreading poems wherever it went. The readings were phenomenal. The audiences were wonderful. It was a happy, happy time. Now though, things are different. My dad has turned into a character in a science fiction movie. My mam has turned the cleaning of door handles into an artform Picasso might have practised. Out in the world, folks in this village doing their daily allowance of exercise peep round the corner of a street to see the coast is clear before they step into it. There is a brand new truth: our need to connect with other human beings can kill us.

Of course, under conditions like these, poems become more essential than ever. There is no better form of remote connection – remote intimacy – than reading a poem. It’s always been true that these little bits of empathy on the page connect us to each other more wonderfully than anything else. They strip away the evasions of our social selves and give us true connection, at the level of nothing less than what’s inside us.

These past weeks, though, I’ve wondered what the big – and, I’m sure, entirely temporary – changes in the world do to subject matter and tone. Working with an editor on the final stages of an article I’d written for a magazine, I began to feel that really I’d have to re-write every word now, because nothing I thought a few weeks ago was true anymore. Are we still allowed comedy or do we need it more than ever? What happens to irony or literary merit?

These questions come into focus when editing a magazine. This editorial aside, every word of this publication was written in advance of the current global situation. Re-reading it now raises some questions. How now do we write about romantic love, mental health, even death? Do questions of relevance or even appropriateness shadow things that were written only a couple of weeks ago? The poems even of the recent past can seem a bit like junior soccer players, stepping out onto the pitch, running round, grinning as their faces meet the air, having a whale of a time, essentially innocent of what’s coming. My decision on all this has been to leave things be. Great poems have always been timeless, and the poems here will be around a hell of a lot longer than the current chaos. Very soon, the only part of this issue of Poetry Wales which will be out-of-date will be this editorial. This does make the act of reading this magazine now something approaching time travel: to read this is to step back into the world of a few short weeks ago. But it is also, I hope, an act of faith in the future these poems will very soon find themselves in, a world which is once again the one we know and love, the one in which they were written.

So join me now, as these poems go stepping out onto those Saturday morning playing fields. Some of them have sparkling kits, celebrity-authorised shinpads, all the equipment. The knees of others are already caked in mud. All of them are grinning and beyond them, parents are lined up on the sidelines, laughing together, as they watch the captains shaking hands. If we zoom out, we can see, beyond them, a group of blokes already standing outside a pub, tapping each other playfully round the chops, saying You daft git, getting ready for a big weekend with the rugby. Beyond them again, in the bustling high street, some folks are tucking into a cracking-looking breakfast outside a café, as a woman, passing, spontaneously hugs her neighbour. If we move back in now we can see this boy, here, tearing in on goal for the very first time in his life. In a moment he’ll celebrate with all his friends, but for now the wind’s in his face and there isn’t a single thing in this world which will take his mind off that ball. Look at him now, as he runs. Runs.


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