Out of chaos comes bliss (with Cerys Matthews)

Cerys talking and her friend operating his harmonium

I attended a book presentation yesterday: the latest compilation of poems by Dylan Thomas, "Out of chaos comes bliss", with Cerys Matthews (who selected the poems and wrote the introduction) and a musician friend of hers whose name I could not catch, and whom I was not expecting!

It was a really nice surprise which turned the cavernous basement of the Waterstones in Tottenham Court Road (also known as Waterstones TCR) into a cosy cave of poetry and music; at points I was vividly seeing what Dylan wrote, at points I was just "zoning out" and letting the whole transport me, not sure where, but I didn't quite mind!

It also felt as how I imagine it is to be in the studio with Cerys while she's broadcasting her BBC Radio 6 Sunday show (which I already recommended back in 2020).

Her friend's music was just the perfect accompaniment: it ebbed and flowed in response to the words, it was at times gentle and at times made itself heard, and I loved his assortment of instruments: a glockenspiel he "borrowed" from his son, a clarinet and a harmonium, which was mesmerising to see being operated—as if he was breathing the music into being! And Cerys did an excellent job with the reading, varying voices, tempos, characters: she appeared to mutate into different persons, line by line, specially when reading from "Under Milk Wood", so effortlessly...! The part where she was shouting "Bach, Bach...!" and one of the most recognisable fragments of Toccata and Fugue in D minor was seamlessly inserted into the song he was playing just gave me such goosebumps...!

She also didn't come across as like she came here to do her presentation thing and then just go away. Instead, she presented as honest and curious, as she wanted to make the event interactive, and learn from the audience what brought them there, what are their connections to Dylan (and then she gave us some homework to research 😅). Exactly how I imagined her! It was a pity we didn't have a lot of time to talk, as I have so many questions about her program (how do they manage the playlist? does she bring records? is it all digital? etc), and I feel like we have a lot of common ground to talk about (music, food, Spain). Maybe one day! And unfortunately, her friend seemed to disappear also really quickly before I could thank him for the music... Maybe one day, too!

For now, I'm happy I attended this.

As to what my connection to Dylan is...

I live in Fitzrovia, which is a neighbourhood full of literary ghosts. Lately I've been helping put together a Fitzrovia+Pub walk and Dylan's trail is ever present in almost every pub, specially around the Rathbone Place/Charlotte Street area. It's almost impossible to walk anywhere he wasn't connected to somehow. I actually haven't read much of his poetry yet! But I liked what few verses I read—as Cerys said: it moves you, so when I saw the event announced in the window of the library right on the same week as I was preparing the walk, it was too many coincidences to ignore: I took it as a signal to dive more into his work.

Detail of metallic ink and relief on the book cover

The book is beautifully put together. To even look at it is already comforting! It's a paperback, which I love because it's lightweight, but it's not plain and cheap looking. Instead, it has a very Japanese looking cover with metal ink details and relief, and a nice touch which is the flaps, so you don't need to worry about bookmarks; you can just use the flaps to keep track of where you were.

Detail of the flap on the book

There will be more when I read it, and it will go onto my book reviews.