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Last Updated: Monday, 30 May, 2005, 15:58 GMT 16:58 UK
'Poet for ever' urges laureate
Steve Duffy
BBC News website

Gwyneth Lewis reading her poetry at Hay
Lewis said it was 'unthinkable' the poet's post would disappear
The new national poet for Wales, Gwyneth Lewis, has used her first public appearance to call for the post to be made permanent.

Speaking at the Hay Festival, she said it was "unthinkable to go backwards."

"It should be permanent for the foreseeable future. You can't say 'We had a national poet for Wales'".

Meanwhile, TV gardener Monty Don and wife Sarah shared their garden secrets and life's ups and downs, including financial collapse and depression.

Ms Lewis read from her work, including a poem celebrating Welsh rugby, and said she wanted a dialogue with others.

"I'm thinking a lot about the job and to make it the most value to the most people.

"But I can't write anything in this job that I couldn't write otherwise".

Queues at Hay Festival on Monday
Making Hay - crowds wait for the Monty and Sarah Don event

The post is funded for one year, possibly two, but needed "time to develop, in different hands," said Ms Lewis.

Meanwhile, on a perfect Bank Holiday afternoon for gardening, hundreds packed inside a tent to learn a few secrets from TV presenter and columnist Monty Don.

He has written with his wife Sarah, "The Jewel Garden", which is the couple's very personal diary of their Herefordshire plot.

"We thought we were writing a gardening book but it turned out to be very different - very little gardening at all, it became a memoir, a biography," said Monty.

Monty and Sarah Don at Hay book signing
The full Monty - long queues for a book signed by the gardener

Life has not been a bed of roses for the Dons. The couple told with dark humour the ups and considerable downs, which included the rise and fall of their up-market costume jewellery business, financial crisis, homelessness and Monty's ongoing battle with depression.

'Groovy and trendy'

Sarah said her life had been "either rats in the kitchen or champagne".

Moving from Hackney to Herefordshire, ending flat broke in 1992 with "just the children's clothes in suitcases" it is not a simple story of tending the plants.

"We've put ourselves into the garden and it shines back to us with all the faults and all the problems," said Monty.

"But all our best times are together - and based around work."

As well as questions from the audience about soil quality and slugs, there were others about coping with depression.

Monty admitted that he had "burnt" a first draft, finding it too negative, having started writing it when depressed.

The couple admitted in the future they might consider moving abroad to avoid cold winters, when Monty is more vunerable to the illness.

As for the current vogue for gardens and gardening, Monty added: "We were in our 20s when we started, when friends were out at parties. In 1980, no-one under 50 gardened. Now we're 50, it's groovy and trendy."



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