|MIKE PARKER||Books: Real Powys|
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Books by Mike Parker: Real Powys
Welsh psychogeography - well, there's two words not often seen nuzzling together. But when poet Peter Finch published Real Cardiff in 2002, he started something of a quiet revolution, where native writers seized on their milltir sgwar ("square mile") and tore it into glittering chunks. Peter went on to produce Real Cardiff 2 and 3, as well as overseeing a growing series that includes Niall Griffiths' takes on Aberystwyth and Liverpool (the true capital of North Wales), Nigel Jenkins on Swansea, Ann Drysdale on Newport, Jon Gower on Llanelli, Grahame Davies on Wrexham and Mario Basini on Merthyr Tydfil.
So far, so urban. Wales is a rural nation, and I wanted to apply the Real rules to the great green heart of the country, my adopted home county of Powys. Peter agreed, and this book was the result. I'll deal with the incredulous questions first. Powys? Powys? A book about that damp expanse only ever seen through the smudge of a slow-moving windscreen? Yes. There's no shortage of material. This is the county of the Royal Welsh Show and the Hay Festival, the Severn and the Wye, Owain Glyndŵr and Lembit Öpik, the Beacons and the Berwyn, beefy squaddies and downshifting Jemimas, the Anglos, the Welsh and the Anglo-Welsh, Laura Ashley and Tiggy Legge-Bourke, Bruce Chatwin and Gwerful Mechain, a fifteenth century bard most famous for her Cywydd y Gont ("Ode to the cunt").
The county of Powys is just over two thousand square miles, a full quarter of the Welsh landmass. Half the size of Jamaica, more than twice that of Luxembourg, bigger than thirty-one sovereign nations. A quarter of Wales, but home to just 4.4% of its population. 65 people per square mile, against a Welsh average of 365, and an English figure of over a thousand. What it lacks in people, it more than makes up with in sheep. Like flecks of God's dandruff across His rounded green shoulders, there are said to be a million in Radnorshire alone, making the county's sheep-to-person ratio a meaty 50:1. Cue the jokes.
Buy the book
Real Powys by Mike Parker, published October 2011 by Seren Books, £9.99
From the reviews:
"Real Powys spits out some uncompromising truths, some hilarious judgements and some detailed observations that only a radical non-conformist situationist could come out with - and they are so damned accurate" - Rhys Mwyn, Culture Colony
"I am pleased to report that Mike Parker has got it right. This isn't Pevsner or Wikipedia. It isn't an exhaustive checklist of everything... But what he does say rings true and this is a lively and interesting book" - Nicholas Murray
"One of the most entertaining books I've read for a long time. It's billed as a 'psychogeography' of Powys - but don't let that put you off: it's sharply written, very funny and stuffed full of odd details and great anecdotes while underneath it all runs a huge dose of affection for his home county" - butnoidea.co.uk