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Devolutionary Readings

English-Language Poetry and Contemporary Wales


Matthew Jarvis

The September 1997 vote approving devolution, albeit by a tiny margin, was a watershed moment in recent Welsh history. This volume of essays considers the English-language poetic life of Wales since that point. Addressing a range of poets who are associated with Wales by either birth or residence and have been significantly active in the post-1997 period, it seeks to understand the various ways in which Wales’s Anglophone poetic life has been intertwined both with devolutionary matters specifically and the life of contemporary Wales more generally, as well as providing detailed scrutiny of work by key figures. The purpose of the book is thus to offer insights into how English-language poetry and contemporary Wales intersect, exploring the contours of a diverse and vibrant poetic life that is being produced at a time of important cultural and political developments within Wales as a whole.

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2. Here and There: Poetry after Devolution in Wales and Northern Ireland (Neal Alexander)


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2   Here and There: Poetry after Devolution in Wales and Northern Ireland

ABSTRACT This chapter develops a comparative reading of recent poetry from Wales and Northern Ireland in the wake of the successful Welsh referendum on devolution (1997) and the Good Friday Agreement (1998). Although the historical and political contexts are importantly different in each case, it is possible to identify the development of a broadly ‘transnational’ poetics in the work of contemporary Welsh and Northern Irish poets. After devolution, concepts such as ‘identity’, ‘home’ and ‘belonging’ are increasingly subjected to the alienating displacements of globalization, so that representations of place often explore the entanglement of different spatial scales: local, regional, national, international. This is perhaps the most clearly defined and widely commented-upon feature of contemporary poetry in Northern Ireland and Wales, and the most obvious point of comparison. However, I also argue that several younger poets from Wales and Northern Ireland demonstrate a shared concern with the politics of memory in a historical period marked by various forms of forgetting. In Northern Ireland, poets such as Sinéad Morrissey and Alan Gillis often employ complex or distorted temporalities in their texts, so as to highlight and contest the elision of history in the Peace Process’s dominant narrative of socio-economic ‘progress’. In Wales, Gwyneth Lewis and Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch both draw attention to the ways in which threats to Wales’s Welsh-speaking communities are being ignored or overlooked, and suggest that remembering...

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