Laura Wainwright’s title poem ‘Coedcernyw’ dwells in place, in a past seen through the lens of the present, in a dwelling restored by her family, a Welsh barn (ysgubor), where the River Severn estuary runs ‘pale brown / as the belly of a wren’, and hidden from view, the ‘M4 and A48’ go about their endless business, through a parish southwest of Newport in Monmouthshire.
Here is a borderland in several senses, where settlement and the natural world meet, where owls haunt, and mice and spiders, starlings and swifts, and history speaks Welsh. ‘Coedcernwy’ means Cornish wood. The local church, St Pedrog ap Glywys Cernyw, points up the connection with Cornwall, through the Saint’s Welsh father who settled there.
The layerings in this poem are wonderfully caught as Wainwright meditates on the evolutions of the barn’s restoration, by her architect father. There is emerging domesticity here in the heart of the wild or its contemporary remnant.
Laura Wainwright has a sharp eye. The clean outlines of her verses reflect this. What’s more she has an acute ear for an enriching cadence.
In the second sequence here, ‘Suite of Rust’, she gives us in well-honed words ‘implements in their places’, so to speak (after W. S. Graham), a catalogue of scythe, hooks and shears, from the agricultural past, and beyond, most vividly, a docker’s hook, found by her father under the floorboards of Cardiff’s ‘Duke of Wellington’ pub, ‘its coal-black neck arched . . . / rearing as a cormorant’s / in Tiger Bay.’
Her debut collection is due to appear from Seren in the near future. She is currently writing about the life and work of Robert Minhinnick (see his pamphlet Menhennet here) for a book in the Writers of Wales series.