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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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6. ‘After Before’: Finding Welsh War Poetry (Nerys Williams)


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6   ‘After Before’: Finding Welsh War Poetry

ABSTRACT This chapter considers works by Robert Minhinnick and Owen Sheers. Concentrating on Minhinnick’s 2008 volume King Driftwood, I examine his response to the Iraq War and how this connects with his earlier experience of visiting Baghdad following the Gulf War. Minhinnick’s travelogues attempt to suture the geographic distance between Iraq and south Wales. Owen Sheers’s verse drama Pink Mist was commissioned by BBC Radio 4 and was published by Faber in 2013. This work offers perspectives upon the impact of the Afghanistan War on veterans and their families. Sheers has also worked with the testimonies and memories of British veterans. For both poets, I consider how the role of the poem as a social document is navigated in their poetics, and whether the poem functions as a transformative site for trauma. I also propose that both poets, in different ways, reflect upon the cultural complexities of Welsh militarism, post-devolution.

In her useful editorial introduction to the volume Literary Devolution: Writing in Scotland, Ireland, Wales and England (1997), Elinor Shaffer suggests how the cultural politics of devolution may evolve:

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