Acclaimed poet Paul Henry’s latest book includes a moving elegy to displaced workhouse residents. Set on a stretch of canal in Llangattock, The Glass Aisle moves between rage and stillness, past and present, music and silence. In the book’s title poem, a telephone engineer repairs a line that crosses the canal to the site of an old workhouse. Tormented by the voices of former “inmates”, he unwittingly connects the centuries, setting free the Victorian ghosts of poacher John Moonlight, lone parent Mary Thomas, and a host of others who haunt the poem’s present-day walker.
We’ll take a walk along “the glass aisle” with Paul as he talks about the inspiration behind the work and reads from the poem. After the walk, we will be joined by local historian, Margaret Williams, who will talk about the history of the Union Workhouse, as described in her book The Crickhowell Union Workhouse – ‘The Spike’, compiled last year alongside Elaine Wigzell. There are tales of marital breakdown, alcoholism, neglect, extreme poverty and abuse. Judgements passed are harsh, punishment is often hard labour.
Paul Henry is author of nine poetry collections. Described by Carol Ann Duffy as “one of the most important Welsh poets now writing” his previous collection, Boy Running, was shortlisted for Wales Book of the Year. Also a songwriter, Paul Henry has presented programmes for Radio Wales, Radio 3 and Radio 4.