Tony (Anthony, Edward, Marcell) Conran, poet, translator, critic and teacher was one of Wales’ leading writers during a career which spanned more than 50 years. He was born in Bengal in 1931, lived in Liverpool, Colwyn Bay as a boy and graduated in English and Philosophy at Bangor University. He worked as a clerk in Chelmsford for a short period when he became a Catholic, a socialist and began translating Welsh Bardic Poetry. During his time as a Research Fellow and Tutor in English at Bangor, he published several volumes of poetry, including the award winning volumes Formal Poems (Christopher Davies 1960), Blodeuwedd (Poetry Wales Press, 1988) and Castles (Gomer, 1993). He also completed his translations and introduction to The Penguin Book of Welsh Verse (later reissued and expanded as Welsh Verse, Seren Books, 1986 & 1992) and published numerous articles and essays. After he took early retirement in 1981, his creative and critical output continued and broadened to include works for the theatre, two volumes of critical writing and further volumes of poetry and translations. His final volume of unpublished poetry Three Symphonies will be published by Agenda Editions in June 2016.
Tony Conran was an inspirational tutor and mentor to generations of students and taught specialist seminars on Courtly Love and the Folk Ballads at Bangor. His interests were wide and he had the polymath’s understanding of aspects of science (most notably botany and chemistry) and music (classical, folk, jazz and traditional) as well as politics (he remained a fervent Marxist) and the arts. His home was a haven for artists, musicians, folk singers, scientists, radical thinkers and writers as well as students.
Conran believed that poetry is brought alive by reading and performance and worked with performers, artists and film-makers to create notable performances including 'Dial a Poem' (1970), 0.125 'Where is thy Sting' (1971), 'The Angry Summer' by south Wales poet Idris Davies (1973), 'Blodeuwedd' (1983), 'Rhys and Meinir' (1995). His early collaborators included Artists and film-makers Alan McPherson and Clive Walley, dancers Anna Holmes, Bronwyn Judge and Dymphna D’Arcy, voice performers Pauline Down and Martin Gill and many musicians. From the early 1980’s he turned to drama and his full-length verse-drama Branwen was produced by Gilly Adams with Made in Wales Stage Company and toured Wales (1984-7). He was also commissioned to translate Saunders Lewis’s verse-drama Amlyn ac Amig by the BBC and it was produced by Adrian Mourby for BBC Radio 3 as 'The Vow'. Other shorter theatrical experiments continued and in 2008 Conran, his wife Lesley and a group of performers established Corws Cerddi Conran Poetry Chorus who continue to perform his poetry.
Inspired by the landscape and environment of his north Wales home, Tony Conran was keenly interested in the natural world. He was a keen gardener, and grew a great variety of shrubs in his hillside garden by the Menai Straits. He was a collector of ferns and grew rare examples from spores he brought back from travels in the UK and abroad. Until his mobility declined in his later years, he enjoyed walking in the mountains and on the coast, looking for birds, ferns and examples of the rich archaeology and geology of the area.