An all-nighter featuring Hugh Heffner, Coors Light, washing machines and a ukulele orchestra might not seem the most likely of literary events. However this is how Wales celebrates National Poetry Day each year. Over the last 24 hours four award-winning Welsh-language poets have been furiously writing a hundred poems between them on topics put to them by the public. Using the hashtag #Her100Cerdd (100 Poem Challenge) people throughout Wales and beyond have been suggesting themes from the sublime to the slightly ridiculous.
National Poetry Day is an annual celebration of poetry and all things poetic, run by the Forward Arts Foundation, a charity committed to widening poetry’s audience, honouring achievement and supporting talent.
Whilst undergoing the challenge, the poets were housed at Tŷ Newydd Writing Centre, a beautiful grade II* listed building on the north Wales coast. Hardy Literature Wales staff members were on hand throughout the process, sharing the poems on social media and distributing coffee and other necessary refreshments.
This is the fifth year Literature Wales has run Her100Cerdd as part of wider National Poetry Day celebrations. The poets who endured the challenge this year are Karen Owen, Rhys Iorwerth, Iestyn Tyne and Gwynfor Dafydd. Early on in the process Rhys Iorwerth spoke to the media about being “coerced” into accepting the challenge by Leusa Llywelyn, Head of Tŷ Newydd, pointing out that at the time he had been enjoying “some refreshments” at the National Eisteddfod. He went on to write a poem on the situation in strict-metre verse (no.13, ‘Cwestiwn’).
By now Her100Cerdd is considered one of the most significant events in the Welsh literary calendar, with hundreds of topics submitted, and thousands of enthusiastic followers. The result is a snapshot of contemporary Wales in a day – revealing the thoughts, interests, worries and humour of the Welsh public. There were requests for poems for significant anniversaries, opening of important buildings, family birthdays, and elegies for lost loved ones. Organisations joined in the fun, including Ysgol Gymraeg Iolo Morgannwg, Carolina Panthers Welsh Fans, Oxfam, and esteemed women’s movement Merched y Wawr. As well as weighty topics, some slightly sassier subjects were also written about, including an ode to pork pies, the perils of playing ping-pong, and Gwynedd Paranormal Investigators.
The poets completed their challenge at precisely 11.59 am on the morning of National Poetry Day with a poem about the end of a long shift. When asked about his initial thoughts on the experience, Rhys Iorwerth commented: “I shall be avoiding Leusa Fflur at next year’s Eisteddfod.” You can view the poems in Welsh here: www.llenyddiaethcymru.org/our-projects/her-100-cerdd/