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Date: 13/12/15

Bardd Y Deuoliaethau / A Poet Of Dualities

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Llun du a gwyn o Bryan Martin Davies, o'r 60au hwyr, mae'n debyg / A black & white photograph of Bryan Martin Davies, probably from the late 60s

Bryan Martin Davies
Bardd ac athro
g. 8 Ebrill 1933, f. 26 Awst 2015

Bryan Martin Davies
Poet and teacher
b. 8 April 1933, d. 26 August 2015


Bm yn pendroni'n hir ar sut y dylwn goffu Bryan Martin Davies byth ers i mi ddarllen yr obit yn yr Independent rhyw fis yn l (yr unig sylw a roddwyd i'w farwolaeth yn y wasg Lundeinaidd - a'r wasg 'Gymreig' hyd y gwelaf i).

A ddylwn i geisio rhywbeth nad ydyw i'm gymwys i'w wneud, sef rhyw fath o ddadansoddiad llenyddol o'i gerddi? Neu a ddylwn i gyflawni trosedd mwy erchyll o lawer, sef ceisio cyfansoddi cerdd i nodi ei ymadawiad?

Yr wyf wedi bod yn darllen ei gerddi eto yn ddiweddar, ac er bod rhai o deithi amlwg y Foderniaeth vers libre i'w cael yn ei waith - yn enwedig yn ei gasgliadau cynnar - y teimlad a geir yn amlach o lawer wrth ddarllen yw un o egni yn tasgu fel gwreichion o'r tudalennau, a chael eich taro tro ar l tro gan ei ddelwedd o elfennau o fyd natur yn cyfateb i rannau iaith neu farddoniaeth; canghennau a dail fel llafariaid a chytseiniad iaith natur, er enghraifft, neu o goed a thirwedd yn cynrychioli ffurfiau barddonol megis englyn, cywydd ac awdl.

Bm innau'n rhan o'i waith hefyd, mewn ffordd anuniongyrchol. Bu Bryan Martin Davies yn athro i mi yn y chweched dosbarth yn Ngholeg Il yn Wrecsam ddiwedd y saithdegau, ac yr oedd Ystafell 6 lle cynhaliwyd ein dosbarthau ar lawr cyntaf yr adeilad hyll hwnnw ar Ln Crisbin yn wynebu dros do llyfrgell y Coleg ac yn rhoi golygfa hyd at bentrefi gorllewinol y dref: Brychdyn, Brynteg, Brymbo. Ac mae'n amlwg fod syllu allan trwy'r ffenestr wedi ei ysbrydoli, gan fod o leiaf dwy gerdd yn ei gasgliad Lleoedd (1984) yn seiliedig ar yr hyn a welodd ac a ddychmygodd o'r golygfeydd hynny.

Ni welais y dyn ar l i mi ymadael Choleg Il ym 1981, ond ar un achlysur ychydig misoedd wedyn, pan oedd wedi hebrwng un o'i ferched yn l i Bantycelyn ar l iddi dreulio'r penwythnos gartref, a gan nad oedd fawr o ddidordeb gennyf mewn barddoniaeth ar y pryd, ni wyddwn beth ddaeth i'w ran wedyn.

Dim ond pan ddaeth yr Eisteddfod Genedlaethol i'r dref yn 2013, ac wedi cyflwyniad Grahame Davies ac Elin ap Hywel ar BMD y bardd a'r dyn y deuthum i ddeall fod pethau wedi mynd o chwith yn ofnadwy iddo, gan iddo ymddeol yn gynnar o'i swydd, yn rhannol oherwydd afiechyd, ond hefyd i ofalu am ei annwyl wraig Gwenda pan gafodd ei tharo gan MS yng nghanol yr wythdegau. Mae'r ychydig o waith barddonol a gynhyrchodd yn ystod rhan gyntaf y degwad hwnnw yn adlewyrchu ei anhawsterau; y mae'n llawer mwy tywyll (nid o ran techneg, ond o ran y pynciau a'r mynegiant) ac mae wedi colli'r sioncrwydd llawen a nodweddai ei gerddi cynharach.

Yn ystod gwaeledd ei wraig (a barhaodd am ddegawd bron cyn iddi farw yn 1996), bu'r bardd yn fud yn gyfangwbl, a dim ond ar droad y ganrif hon y ceisiodd ail-afael ar farddoni unwaith yn rhagor; ond dim ond dwy gerdd - y ddwy yn delio 'i golled, ac mewn mesurau llawer mwy ffurfiol nag o'r blaen - ddaeth o'r ymgais. Treuliodd flynyddoedd olaf ei fywyd yn dioddef o salwch difrifol yn yn byw yn feudwyaidd; tynged annheilwng i un y bu ei gerddi yn fflamio goleuni a brwdfrydedd.

Y mae arnaf ddyled enfawr i Bryan Martin Davies. Er na wrandewais arno fo a'i gyngor cymaint ag y dylswn yn l yn Ystafell 6, creodd argraff arnaf oedd yn ddigon i'm hysgogi i fynd i'w alma mater ef ei hunan ac astudio'r Gymraeg fel y gwnaeth yntau bron i ddeng mlynedd ar hugain o'm blaen. Ef, yn anad neb, a'm troes yn Gymro Cymraeg; ac am hynny, ac am ei farddoniaeth, diolchaf heddiw.

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I have been pondering long and hard about how I should memorialise Bryan Martin Davies ever since I read the obituary of him in the Independent about a month ago (the only notice taken of his death in the London press - or in the 'Welsh' press as far as I can tell).

Should I try doing something I am singularly ill-suited for, namely some sort of literary analysis of his poems? Or should I commit an even greater atrocity and try to write a poem to mark his passing?

I've recently been re-reading his poems, and although there are some of the obvious traits of Modernist vers libre to be found in his work - especially in the early collections - one gets far more often from one's reading a feeling of energy flying like sparks from the page, and of being struck time after time by his imagery of elements of the natural world being cognate with parts of language or poetry; branches and leaves as the vowels and consonants of the language of nature, for example, or of trees and landscapes as representing poetic forms such as the englyn, the cywydd and the awdl.

I too was part of his work, in an indirect sort of way. Bryan Martin Davies was my teacher in the sixth form in Yale College, Wrexham at the end of the seventies, and Room 6 - where our classes were held - was on the first floor of that appallingly ugly building, facing out over the roof of the library and giving a view up to the villages on the western side of town: Broughton, Brynteg, Brymbo. And it's obvious that looking out through those windows had inspired him, as at least two of the poems in his 1984 collection Lleoedd (Places) were based upon what he had seen - and what his imagination had divined - from that vista.

I never saw him after I left Yale in 1981, except for one occasion a few months later when he had brought one of his daughters back to Pantycelyn after a weekend at home, and as I had no great interest in poetry at that time, I didn't know what had happened to him after that.

It was only when the National Eisteddfod came to town in 2013, and after a presentation by Grahame Davies and Elin ap Hywel on BMD the poet and the man that I came to realise that things had gone terribly wrong for him, as he had retired early, partly due to illness but also to care for his dear wife Gwenda when she was struck down by MS in the mid-1980s. What little poetry he produced in the first half of that decade reflects his difficulties; it is a lot darker (not from the point of view of technique, rather that of subject matter and expression), and lacks the exuberant vibrancy which typified his earlier poems.

During his wife's illness (which lasted for nearly a decade before her death in 1996), he was completely silent, and it was only at the turn of this century that he tried to take up poetry once again; but only two poems - both dealing with his loss, and in far more formal measures than before - came from the attempt. He spent the last years of his life suffering from serious illness and living in a hermit-like fashion; an unworthy fate for one whose poems had flamed with light and enthusiasm.

I owe Bryan Martin Davies a great debt. Although I never listened to him and his advice as much as I ought to have done back in Room 6, he made an impact on me which was enough to prod me into going to his own alma mater to study Welsh in the same way as he had done almost thirty years before me. He, more than any other, made me a Cymro Cymraeg; and for that, and for his poetry, I give thanks today.