Seasoned published in The Times on the day of Wales v England Match
April is the cruelest month, or so the poets say,
for us though, it was Autumn did the damage.
Thinning our wood with felled trees,
breaking our limbs in its storms.
As we entered winter’s days
frost ran against our grain,
black with December rain.
But just as a coppiced trunk
confronts its cutting with growth,
and saplings will thicken into oaks,
so the torn muscle knits itself stronger
and the broken bone will heal itself firmer
to ready their bearers for the invitations of spring;
for the flexing of our boughs, the spreading of our wings.
Calon: A Journey to the Heart of Welsh Rugby Publication Date: 7 Feb 2013
There are moments when the many, through the few, become one. At the 2011 Rugby World Cup a young Welsh side captained by the 22-year-old Sam Warburton, captured the imagination of the rugby-watching world. Exhibiting the grit and brilliance of generations past, an ill-fated semi-final ended in heartbreak. But a fledgling squad playing with the familiarity of brothers had sent out an electrifying message of hope: could this be a third golden generation of Welsh rugby?
It was with this question hanging in the air that Owen Sheers took up his position as Writer in Residence for the Welsh Rugby Union. Calon is the document of a year spent at the heart of Welsh rugby; the inside story of a 6 Nations campaign that galvanised a nation and ended in Grand Slam success for the third time in 8 years.
What does rugby mean to Wales? Where does the heart of Welsh rugby lie? In Calon, Owen Sheers takes a personal journey into a sport that defines a nation. Drawing on interviews and unprecedented access with players and WRU coaching staff, Calon presents an intimate portrait of a national team in the very best tradition of literary sports writing.
Australia Tour 2012 Video which goes behind the scenes on the Welsh tour of Australia where Owen Sheers, the WRU Writer in Residence discusses his role at length.
WRU Artist in Residence Owen has been appointed the 2012 WRU Artist in Residence. Working with the Arts Council of Wales, this will be the first of three appointments made by the WRU over the next three years. Owen will observe and follow Welsh rugby at all levels, from the elite and national level to grass roots.
Poem printed in the Wales v France match programme, March 17 2012:
Now and Then
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present
- T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton
There are moments in history when
regardless of your seat, a nation becomes a stadium.
When a country's gaze and speech,
tightens in one direction.
When a population leans, from sofas,
pub stools, in village halls, to watch.
Or strains to listen in cars at the sides of roads,
or in tractor cabs stilled in silent fields.
There are moments when the many,
through the few, become one.
A faithful but demanding tribe,
fed by the past, hungry for a win
but also more. For beauty as well as strength,
for art as well as war.
But romance, history, fervour,
are the privilege of watchers only.
For the men who must do, who must carry this burden,
though fuelled by the colour of the jersey,
the feathers on their chest, there can be no past
or future when, but only now.
For them those eighty tightening minutes
will be an ever-living present
composed of the angle of their runs,
the timing of cross kicks, the learned set piece
which like a trigger will fire the line
to light the match. It will be the focused practice
of what their bodies have learnt on the training pitch.
The thousands of hours of solitary pain,
the sacrifice which has led them,
and them alone, to this -
A nation watching, sharing a pulse
as the clock counts up to the final whistle
when, in an instant, now becomes then.
The moment, whichever way it falls, cast forever,
and theirs to carry for the rest of their lives
until, like those who've passed through
this crucible before, they too will join
the soil, the tir, the pridd of this land
they were prepared to fight and suffer for.
An early version of this poem below, which uses RS Thomas' 'Song at the Year's Turning' as a model, was printed in the Wales v Scotland match programme, February 12 2012:
Song at the Year’s Turning
After R.S. Thomas
The Millennium Stadium Cardiff,
Midnight, New Year’s Eve 2011/2012
The firework’s cannon-echo fades, the rocket’s falling star decays
as first with seconds, then minutes the year begins to carve its ways.
The pitch grass is pale and short, dew-damp underfoot,
the blades coaxed by low-suspended lamps further from their roots.
Everything is to come, the stadium a vessel, the quiet a settled dust,
a stillness anticipating the violence of a match day’s lust.
The stands of seats are a crucible of voices, everything still to say,
a hundred exit men between them, running their lives away.
The soundscape of a cave, dripping in the night. Or a winter wood
where every creak and sigh suggests the ear of tooth or blood.
A single bird takes flight across the opened roof as if lifting from a bough,
its feathers lit, as bright as a sub breaking from touch like the breaking of a vow.
A blessing? Perhaps. For seasons and matches also have their grace,
not only turning but returning too, beginning at the same beginning place.
We are grown from memory but alive only now, our past breaths upon the wind.
Whatever has been done, though there, is gone; whoever sinned,
whoever won, is recalled and forgotten here, where glory, bruise and blame
will all be washed away by now. The new grass shall purge us in its flame.