A Worm’s Folly

Poems in Cornish

A Worm’s Folly is the fullest collection of poetry in the Cornish language to date by Mick Paynter, whose Bardic name,  Skogynn Pryv – Worm’s Fool – gives the book its title. Paynter writes in a variety of forms – touching and humorous, polemical and angry – and with a deep affection for Cornwall and the Cornish language. The poems are accompanied by parallel translations into English. Also included in the collection are a number of translations into Cornish from other sources – English, Yiddish and Breton poems, Blues songs – showing the versatility of the language.

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A Worm’s Folly is the fullest collection of poetry in the Cornish language to date by Mick Paynter, whose Bardic name,  Skogynn Pryv – Worm’s Fool – gives the book its title. Paynter writes in a variety of forms – touching and humorous, polemical and angry – and with a deep affection for Cornwall and the Cornish language. The poems are accompanied by parallel translations into English. Also included in the collection are a number of translations into Cornish from other sources – English, Yiddish and Breton poems, Blues songs – showing the versatility of the language.

About the contributors
  • Mick Paynter was born in 1948 in St Ives and has lived there most of his life. He worked in several jobs before settling down as a Revenue Officer in Cornwall and has been an active trade unionist all his working life. He has always had an interest in language and began a serious study of Kernewek in 1999, productively filling many long train journeys as a union rep. He became a bard of Gorsedh Kernow in 2003. His Bardic name is Skogynn Pryv/Worm’s Fool. He is currently Grand Bard of Gorsedh Kernow.
  • Mererid Hopwood is a respected Welsh language poet and the first woman to win the bardic Chair, and the first to have been awarded the Crown and the Prose Medal at the National Eisteddfod of Wales.
Language

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Formatpaperback
ISBN9781903427637
Number of pages106

Reviews

Mick Paynter is left-handed, has always had “a Cornish orientation,” used to be a bolshie trade unionist, doesn’t drive a car and still hitch-hikes occasionally.

These facts illuminate and inform a great deal of the content of this bilingual collection by a rebel poet of many causes.

His introduction displays the zealousness characteristic of many learners of lesser-used languages: “I love it… it carries in it the soul of Cornwall,” he writes.

For Welsh speakers, as Mererid Hopwood notes in her preface, it is possible to imagine the “sounds of the sister language” when reading the Cornish version.

She’s surely right to hope that the collection will inspire other writers to express their life experiences through the medium of their grandmother’s – or ancestors’ – tongue.

Second or third language speakers find it easier to express their innermost feelings through the medium of their newly-acquired language because their mother tongue has ingrained in them a more school-orientated, formal outlet for their experiences.

As Paynter says, “I only write letters in English.”

Many of these poems have the characteristics of the single-stanza englynion – a kind of haiku – of the Brythonic branch of the Celtic tree.

The pithinnes and the strong consonant-based element that characterise these short poems in Cornish present a challenge to any translator.

An example is a depiction of one of Britain’s most well-known landmarks, which resonates with a far deeper meaning in the context of the Cornish language – its fate in the past and its uncertain future. “War Benn agan gwlas,/Right at the Land’s End/Norvys a dhelerg dhynni,/Behind us the complete world,/dhe’n mor mar dhifen./So forbidding is the sea.”

These poems certainly deserve a wide readership, not least because of the apparent ease with which Paynter combines age-long and contemporary themes.

His “warm feeling” whenever he crosses the Tamar into Cornwall could become the experience of all readers who are willing to read and embark on these poems’ westward journey.