Publication Date: 6 June 2013
Pink Mist is a verse-drama about three young soldiers from Bristol who are deployed to Afghanistan. School friends still in their teens, Arthur, Hads and Taff each have their own reasons for enlisting. Within a short space of time they return to the women in their lives (a mother, a wife, a girlfriend), all of whom must now share the psychological and physical aftershocks of their service.
A work of great dramatic power, documentary integrity and emotional intensity, Pink Mist uses everyday yet heightened speech to excavate the human cost of modern warfare. Drawing upon interviews with soldiers and their families, as well as ancient texts such as the medieval Welsh poem Y Gododdin, it is the first extended lyric narrative to emerge from the devastating conflict in Afghanistan.
Praise for Pink Mist:
‘The war poet of our generation’ – Independent 50 Winter Reads
‘Breathtaking, unforgettable…. with the humanity of a Wilfred Owen, Sheers brings the pity of the far Afghan war into our own mind’s neighbourhood.’ – Dannie Abse
‘Sheers’ strengths have come to the fore… a balance of heightened reality and hardened truth, coupled with human and spiritual intensity. There’s a new musicality to his writing and a strong feminine presence. Not only do we hear the stories of those left behind in war but also the prophetic, perhaps even somatic energy of the female voice….In Pink Mist Sheers proves himself as a writer of both depth and maturity.’ – Helen Calcutt, Wales Arts Review
Pink Mist is a tremendous book. It feels huge, engulfing, devastating… www.guardian.co.uk/books/2013
A dramatic poem by Owen Sheers commissioned for BBC Radio 4’s More than Words listening festival in Bristol 15th-18th March 2012 and transmitted on Radio 4 in five 15-minute episodes 19th – 23rd March every night at 19.45.
Owen Sheers, poet, novelist and creator of The Port Talbot Passion (Easter 2011) has written a five part dramatic poem for BBC Radio 4’s first More than Words festival. It is a work of great dramatic power, of documentary integrity and emotional intensity.
The poem, set in the present in various locations in and around Bristol, tells the story of three young soldiers and the three women in their lives (a mother, a wife and a girlfriend). The three, Arthur, Hads and Taff all live in Bristol. They were school friends who joined up at the same time to serve in the Infantry. All were deployed to Afghanistan. The poem is mostly narrated by Arthur who first wanted to get away from Bristol by joining the army. He tells his story – where he is from and how and why he came to enlist. His girlfriend, Gwen, talks about their life together. Arthur introduces his two friends: Hads, the son of a Somali refugee and a white Bristolian, and Geraint (known as Taff) a Welsh dubstep enthusiast. Both, in their own ways, are escaping from the bangs and explosions of Bonfire Night in Bristol when the poem begins.
Things, we learn, have not gone well. Hads in Afghanistan was a brilliant Vallon-man or mine detector but one wrong move and the odds caught up with him and he lost both his legs. Taff was caught up in a blue on blue or friendly fire incident and has seen his friends and fellow soldiers accidentally killed as well as a young Afghan girl. We hear from them both and Sarah, Hads’ mother, and Lisa, Taff’s wife who explains that when a man is blown up next to you, the soldiers refer to them becoming Pink Mist. Arthur keeps company with the wounded men, now coping with the physical and psychological aftershocks of their service, before telling his own story.
Rhyming in places and rhythmically energetic, one of the achievements of the poem is that it manages to sound spoken and real as well as heightened and lyrical. Several times in the recording process the cast of professional actors were moved to tears by what they were performing.
Drawing inspiration from a variety of ancient sources including Homer’s Odyssey and Iliad and the medieval Welsh poem Y Gododdin as well as months of research, interviews and collaboration with servicemen and veterans (work that also led to the acclaimed ‘The Two Worlds of Charlie F’ written by Owen and performed by a mixed cast of soldiers and actors, at the Haymarket Theatre, London in January), Pink Mist is a major new work from a major talent.
The drama was recorded in Bristol and on location around the city and with an original soundscore from Jon Nicholls.
Arthur – Carl Prekopp;
Hads – Osi Okerafor;
Geraint (Taff) – Jordan Bernarde;
Gwen – Devon Black;
Lisa – Alex Tregear;
Sarah – Leona Walker
Producer: Tim Dee