Ballad of the Black Domain is a collection of poems about the South Wales coalfield of its title and the revolutionary traditions of Merthyr. It’s full of verve and sensitive empathy for the oppressed, with a deep sense of history that doesn't lapse into over-indulgent nostalgia.
There is a tension in the poetry between harmony and dissonance, whereby order can soon break down like society itself, and like the Rising in Merthyr in 1831, where workers claimed the town but paid with their blood. Alun Rees describes the fatal effects of pit disasters, and other examples of the callousness of mine owners to the needs of their workers. But he also conveys character and place with equal directness and telling descriptions. Poems like 'Werngoch Pond' capture a world outside the conflict of the class-divided and dominated Welsh nation.
Rees is a poet too long marginalised within his homeland and little known outside it—and yet his voice is surely as significant as that of his hero Idris Davies. He is a true poet of the people, who has never forgotten his home town and its central place in his imagination.
Ballad of the Black Domain and other poems, by Alun Rees, ISBN 978-1-912710-22-5. 46pps., price £10 plus £3 p. and p.