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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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8. Taking Flight: Translation, Dafydd and Dyfalu in Gwyneth Lewis’s Devolving Poetics (Alice Entwistle)


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8   Taking Flight: Translation, Dafydd and Dyfalu in Gwyneth Lewis’s Devolving Poetics

ABSTRACT Most kinds of expression deploy, if they don’t depend on, metaphor. This lightly comparative discussion of two very different Welsh poets mobilizes that recognition in the context of ongoing devolution in twenty-first-century Wales. The widely respected bilingual contemporary poet Gwyneth Lewis writes – to acclaim – in both of her native languages (Welsh and English). The works of her fourteenth-century Welsh poetic forebear Dafydd ap Gwilym were originally written, of course, in their author’s native Welsh. Until now, Lewis’s perhaps surprising habit has been to keep her own languages separate: her works have been written exclusively in one or the other and the versions which exist in both languages are invariably new productions rather than translations. This chapter was sparked by her relatively recent decision to produce a translation of ap Gwilym’s works, in a radical departure from a practice she has fiercely defended in the past.

The critic Jahan Ramazani argues that poetry ‘– a genre rich in paradox and multivalent symbols, irony and metaphor – is well-suited to mediating and registering the contradictions of split cultural experience’.1 Sifting the reasons for Lewis’s shift of linguistic mode in her response to ap Gwilym, the account examines its implications for her poetic practice as a whole, in the light of the cultural-political transitions which have marked life in Wales since the 1997 referendum.

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