Meirion Jordan

United Kingdom

Meirion Jordan is a poet, editor and musician. He was born in Cwmllynfell, South Wales, and studied mathematics at Somerville College, Oxford. While at Oxford he won the Newdigate Prize, and his first collection, Moonrise (Seren, 2008) was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. His pamphlet on outsiders and strangers in Norwich, Strangers Hall (Gatehouse, 2009) was shortlisted for the Jarrold East Anglia Book of the Year Award, and his most recent collection, Regeneration was published by Seren in 2012. He has performed his work at venues and festivals across the UK and in Europe, including the Ledbury Poetry Festival, the Hay Festival, and Internationales Litteraturfestival Berlin. He is editor for Gatehouse Press and its literary journal, Lighthouse, which is a non-profit enterprise seeking to provide opportunities for new writers from across the UK. He also performs as a fiddle player, playing British and Irish traditional music.


"I can't call a more impressive debut to mind" wrote Sarah Crown in The Guardian about Meirion Jordan’s first collection Moonrise published when he was only 24 years old. The poems in Moonrise reveal a masterful craftsmanship “poem after poem serves to showcase his ability and agility as a poet. He’s careful to keep his focus wide and expansive, like the moon. He dabbles in both the expected and unexpected, indulging us in all that we’d expect to find in a moon themed collection – wolves, owls, vampires, tombs – and all that we wouldn’t – Dan Dare, ‘The Nuclear Disaster Appreciation Society’, pirate music. He uses each poem in Moonrise to effectively showcase his talent and define his own space as a talented young poet.” (Samantha Jackson)

 

Meirion Jordan is also a powerful performer of his work as seen by Gareth Prior, “Meirion Jordan had the audience from his opening line: “I, Yuri Gagarin, having not seen God”. Everything slowed oh-so-slightly; the smoke cleared in the room (this was three years after the smoking ban but memory is a hopeless embellisher); nobody muttered, nobody breathed too loudly.” Jordan also gave a memorable performance at Ledbury Poetry Festival in 2009 as reviewed by fellow poet Anne Berkley, “The first was Meirion Jordan, reading with Ruth Bidgood - quite a contrast of voices. He's good, this is a very accomplished first collection. Sarah Crown called it "a startling, lubricious debut". He reads well, too.”

 

Meirion Jordan's second collection of poetry is Regeneration. "...this is not only a well-written set of poems in themselves but an impassioned and well-researched collection." – Poetry Wales

 

Regeneration is Welsh poet Meirion Jordan's take on the medieval manuscripts known today as the Red Book of Hergest and the White Book of Rhydderch. Meirion Jordan writes “I really took to these two manuscripts, not just because of their lively and sometimes robust approach to ideas of history and romance, but because they were written as household books—places where a family could read the old stories, learn genealogies or pick up some basic medical knowledge. Even the stories themselves are full of local color, with digressions on place-names or important historical figures. The Red Book, in particular, felt very close to home for me. It was originally made for a family who lived about ten miles from where I grew up, and I passed the site of their former home every day to go to school.” This collection is not a 'reinterpretation' but a re-imagining, inspired by the source material that include the stories of the Mabinogi as well as by Mallory's version of King Arthur's tales. We meet characters including 'Arawn, lord of Annwn'; 'Rhiannon's gossips' and 'Bodeuedd (the woman made of flowers)'.

 

The poems in Regeneration evoke what Meirion Jordan calls in his insightful preface 'half-recalled heroic landscapes' they capture the elusive essence of these characters, their mysterious passions and their sometimes violent and often strange adventures in Jordan's distinctive poetic style. “There are many routes through (or at least into) this labyrinth. The two books maintain a complex and multi-layered dialogue with one another, as do the individual poems within and between the books, and the footnotes that interrupt White Book in mid-sentence or mid-phrase. These are allusive, elusive poems – difficult, but also heartbreakingly beautiful and often profound...The writing is very good indeed. Jordan can evoke a primal myth-world as economically as Picasso could evoke a bull with three pen-strokes: a world of “places without name, / or names partly forgotten; / of rivers called ‘river’ / of hills called ‘hill’”. (Gareth Prior)

 

Jordan uses footnotes to make comments about his own family, and especially his grandfather who passed away in 2008. Jacqui Kenton writes in the New Welsh Review, “They provide a running stitch throughout the narrative. As he writes in the beautiful Brycheiniog:

 

My dream of wearing a coat of my ancestors...
Such a close fit. Shot through
With unexpected thread

 

And – from footnote 52:
‘Who were they? Who were these people who are so alive in my memory and in my imagination. And is this their country as well as mine, this patchwork land that is forever slipping in and out of time and place?’”

 

Meirion Jordan was born in 1985 in Swansea, Wales, read Mathematics at Sommerville College, Oxford, where he won the Newdigate Prize in 2007. He holds a PhD from the University of East Anglia, and plays fiddle in the Norfolk folk group Stookey Blue. His début Moonrise was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection, and his pamphlet, Strangers Hall was shortlisted for an East Anglia Book of the Year award.