Sustainable Wales co-founder shortlisted for 2017 ts eliot prize

Co-founder, and Charity Secretary, Robert Minhinnick has been shorlisted for the 2017 TS Eliot Prize.


Focus on Shortlisted Poet - Robert Minhinnick

Robert Minhinnick’s poetry has been influenced by his lifelong commitment as an environmental campaigner. He co-founded Friends of the Earth (Cymru) and became the organisation’s joint co-ordinator for some years. He is advisor to the charity, 'Sustainable Wales' and edits the international quarterly, Poetry Wales.

Robert Minhinnick was born in 1952 in South Wales, where he still lives. He is the prize-winning author of four volumes of essays, more than a dozen volumes of poetry and three works of fiction. His poetry collections include The Looters (1989) and Hey Fatman(1994), both Seren. A Selected Poems was published in 1999, followed by After the Hurricane (2002), King Driftwood (2008) and Diary of the Last Man (2017), all published by Carcanet. He has twice won the Forward Prize for Best Poem.


“Robert Minhinnick's new collection confirms his status as one of the most important poets of these turbulent times. Bleakly elegiac, environmentally political, vital and visionary, his poems cast an extraordinary light over our darkening landscapes.”
- Carol Ann Duffy

“I am not vital to this world’, Robert Minhinnick declares in Diary of the Last Man. His new poetry collection is a hymn to ‘this world’, as well as a warning about what might happen if we continue to abuse our natural surroundings.  It is also a complex meditation on the idea of home and belonging, explored through carefully crafted, and often extremely beautiful, poems. The first of these, a poem sequence, lends the collection its name. In the vein of much speculative fiction, Minhinnick imagines a post-apocalyptic world in which only a few people have survived…

“It is in observing these cycles of sea and river, human and animal, that Minhinnick most excels, and his collection as a whole is beautifully and acoustically attuned to what is most precious in our lives and around us.’
New Welsh Review

“Minhinnick is one of the few poets who writes about a dockyard or a hedgerow with equal authority... A friend of mine once said that he liked to think of R.S.Thomas as ‘just being there’: outside the media hubbub, steadily producing wonderful poems. Although Minhinnick's considerably younger, and more cosmopolitan in scope, I'd say the same about him.”
- Poetry London


You can catch up on our video interviews and readings with Tara Bergin, Caroline Bird, Douglas Dunn, Leontia Flynn and Roddy Lumsden on the T. S. Eliot Prize website.


Poetry from Diary of the Last Man


for Howard Bailey

All that’s in my head is in my head.
Try to notice Neptune, the poet said,

but there’s a mist outside, white on a white sky,
warm air across cold sea, turning the world invisible.

Morphine is a sister, is a saint.
In our blood and history they’ll trace the taint,

while all I see is the needle plunge,
or the golden-green, green-golden

draught in the eye-dropper
turning the world invisible.

Now a waitress brings the tables in.
I ask her for a napkin

and she comes across to the only customer
talking to himself and writing signs

like the moon and stars, the comet’s lines,
as if they could light up the gloom,

or the churning fret that hides the Seagull Room
and turns the world invisible.

I’m just the latest mad bastard to make her day.
But don’t worry, I’m not going to stay.

Yet all this dark matter is in my head,
and Howard, now you are forever dead,

and morphine’s still a sister and a saint
and an executioner. Too early for a cool carafe?
Let this eye-white fog then be your epitaph.

John Field Reviews the Shortlist: Robert Minhinnick

For the 2017 Prize, we’ve asked poetry blogger John Field to review the shortlisted titles again. This week, John concludes that Diary of the Last Man “presents an unsentimental, indifferent world, filled with cruelty and atrocity but, while there may be no Jesus in Minhinnick’s geology, there is no shortage of beauty and, filtered through the sands of his language, this beauty is arresting and memorable.”
In Diary of the Last Man, Robert Minhinnick meditates on environmental apocalypse before training his eye on Anglo-American atrocities in Iraq. Finally, he offers translations from Welsh, Arabic and Turkish. Minhinnick’s poems are a virtuoso display: reminiscent of Gerard Manley Hopkins or Dylan Thomas, bringing the sounds of Welsh poetry to English. He also writes with the force and indignation of Shelley’s ‘The Mask of Anarchy’ as he attacks the obscenities of war.

‘The Diary of the Last Man’ is a sequence of 23 poems, perhaps indicating that, for humanity, time is running out and will be cut short. Loneliness and uncertainty dominate as the speaker muses "Perhaps / I am the last man", with the line break highlighting his doubt as he hums his "hymn of sand". Minhinnick suggests the deadness of the world as the sands of time run fast through humanity’s emptying glass. "Hum my hymn of sand" repeats consonants in the same order, akin to Welsh cynghanedd, resulting in an arresting formality and beauty. The collection enjoys a Protean musicality as sounds morph and shift as they sift through Minhinnick’s hourglass: "Slack? / Slake? / Lake? / Meres and mosses and mirrors and mortuaries". Some might see environmental catastrophe as an unmitigated disaster but Minhinnick’s second poem, ‘Snipe’ presents "Two of them, two lines of barbed wire / across the sky, two voices" and, for once, humanity is outnumbered as nature begins to reclaim the planet.

Another sequence, ‘Mouth to Mouth: A Recitation Between Two Rivers’ alternates between prose and poetry and is reminiscent of William Dyce’s painting ‘Pegwell Bay, Kent – a Recollection of October 5th 1858’. Dyce’s figures scuttle, dwarfed by the geological strata in the cliffs and, above, Donati’s comet, with an orbital period of roughly 1,739 years, crosses the sky. Sand, "formal as fossils", drifts through Minhinnick’s poem and its shifting landscape renders it an "unchronicled country". The landscape is indifferent and insatiable as the dunes swallow human history and Minhinnick’s deer echo Ted Hughes’ ‘Roe Deer’: "two shamen praying to the lightning god, / or so they might well be in this unearthly light".
The ‘Amiriya Suite’ memorialises the bombing of an Iraqi public air raid shelter by the United States Air Force in 1991, killing hundreds of civilians. In the first part, end-stopped lines accent the poem’s cutting bitterness: "One body with four hundred souls / is exposed in a photographic flash. / They pick the wedding rings and wisdom teeth / from crematorium ash" and the facts of the event are re-read as obscene ironies: "Think of a smart bomb. / Not so smart". In the rest of the sequence, Minhinnick gives us unrhymed couplets, suggesting that nothing hangs together in a world of lies and sexed-up dossiers, where "a farmer had written nuclear formulae / on the skin of a watermelon".

Towards the end of the collection, his translations of Erozcelick Seyhan invite us to reconsider the temporal sands running through ‘Mouth to Mouth’ and the ‘Amiriya Suite’. Here, "we rise like incense through the sky, / people who become a plume of smoke". The translation echoes Psalm 141, "May my prayer be set before you like incense" but, for Minhinnick, "there is no Jesus in geology" and nature will just have to make do.

Diary of the Last Man presents an unsentimental, indifferent world, filled with cruelty and atrocity but, while there may be no Jesus in Minhinnick’s geology, there is no shortage of beauty and, filtered through the sands of his language, this beauty is arresting and memorable.

 Published by Carcanet

Published by Carcanet

Text of the Prof. Merryn Hutchings Education discussion available

Professor Merryn Hutchings of London Metropolitan University: discussed “Are schools now exam factories?" in this latest Green Room Podcast of the live event held in late October 2017.
What are we doing to children’s education?

The original text of the presentation for discussion is available for download here (PDF 75kb opens in a new window or right click and select download).

Audio of the discussion:

Listen to the talk by Prof. Merryn Hutchings on Education

Professor Merryn Hutchings of London Metropolitan University: discussed “Are schools now exam factories?" in this latest Green Room Podcast of the live event held in late October 2017.
What are we doing to children’s education?
Merryn appears on the BBC and Channel 4 speaking of her increasing
concern about the stress we are creating for our young. You can listen to other podcasts here

Listen to the Marine Pollution talk by Prof. Allan Williams

The marine pollution presentation by Prof. Allan Williams at the Green Room in October 2017 is now available as an audio podcast you can listen to in your browser (player for this episode is below) or download to listen later.

We have a range of different recordings of talks, events, and poetry all on our podcast page. All the podcasts can be found on this playlist at Soundcloud.

‘Counterpoint’ talks announced - Twentieth Anniversary Celebrations

Sustainable Wales announces celebrations of its Twentieth Anniversary.

Click to enlarge image of poster

Counterpoint’ talks feature leading speakers, all experts in their fields.

Director, Margaret Minhinnick, says: “These events cover the charity’s concerns, which are environmental and cultural. They lead up to our AGM on November 16.”

The three talks take place at the GREEN ROOM, 5, James St. Porthcawl CF36 3BG. 


Professor Allan Williams:

Marine litter’. This problem intensifies as plastics break down, even entering the human bloodstream. A timely talk from one of the world’s leading ‘beachologists’ 


Professor Merryn Hutchings of London Metropolitan University:

“Are schools now exam factories? What are we doing to children’s education?

Merryn appears on the BBC and Channel 4 speaking of her increasing concern about the stress we are creating for our young.


Kevin Sinnott discusses his art and the extraordinary gallery he has created in Pontycymer. There will be opportunities to purchase new prints.

 SW Logo

SW Logo

These talks are part of the charity’s celebrations of its twentieth anniversary. These culminate at the STAGE DOOR, GRAND PAVILION, THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 6.30pm – 10.00 pm (more information will be published about this celebration event/AGM on the blog and events sections).

Expect music and poetry and a performance by Porthcawl’s own ‘One Time Alive’, launching their third album, ‘Red Shift’.

Notice to supporters, SUSSED Annual Meeting - 13 Sept 2017





Dear SUSSED Supporters,

 SUSSED logo


It is our pleasure to invite you to SUSSED Wales’ Annual Meeting 2016/17, 13th Sept 2017, 7:30pm followed by a discussion facilitated by Green Party Councillor Alex Harris and concluded with refreshments and buffet. To be held in the Green Room, above SUSSED, Porthcawl CF36 3BG. 

The AGM, we expect, to be quite informal and short. It will update people about SUSSED’s trading, finances and activities and elect the SUSSED board of directors and volunteer roles and responsibilities.

If anyone would like to stand as a company Director please get in touch before-hand. Or maybe you would like to volunteer and help with shop sales, volunteer coordination, membership development, administration, finances, information research, communications or IT? We would be delighted to hear from you.

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As a community cooperative our volunteers, supporters and membership are central to the organisation. We are a democratic and thus participatory organisation – we need not only your commitment to shop at SUSSED but also your ideas. 

Indeed, as community members you have a stake in the business as you are in fact the “owners”. Thus, we appreciate it when people attend the AGM and give us feedback.

Our guest speaker is Councillor Alex Harris who represents the Green Party in the Rest Bay ward, Porthcawl. The theme we have asked Alex to speak on and lead the discussion is:

What effect will Brexit have on the local community?  How can we respond?

Each community is different. There is a higher number of immigrants in Cardiff than in Porthcawl but there is a larger farming community here. What effect will the current negotiations have on us?

Infrastructure monies from the EU will dry up – when? Will the UK/Welsh Governments compensate for this? What effect will this have on us in Wales? If there is no money into the Valleys for instance, what impact will that have on Porthcawl?

It’s great to see that environmental policies from the EU are being incorporated into UK legislation. Are there any that are being omitted? 

Afterwards let’s celebrate the fact that our community actually has a shop like SUSSED.

We hope that you can attend what should be an enjoyable evening.  

Please RSVP, via email ( ) or phone (01656783962) to ensure there is an appropriate amount of seating and refreshments available.

Best Wishes

Margaret Minhinnick on behalf of all the Directors SUSSED (Luke Evans, Martin Little, Robert Minhinnick, Peter Morgan, Melanie Johnson)