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This review is taken from PN Review 171, Volume 33 Number 1, September - October 2006.

TOWARDS A MINOR LITERATURE GWYNETH LEWIS, Chaotic Angels: Poems in English (Bloodaxe) £9.95
 

Creu gwir in these stones Fel gwydr horizons
O ffwrnais awen sing.
 

 This untitled poem is Gwyneth Lewis’s most prominent, as it appears in carved letters on the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff. The poem is preoccupied with gwir or truth and the difficulty of communicating authentically. The problem of defining place is significant, since stones hold fragile horizons of gwydr (glass). The role of the poet is to melt the transparency of glass or truth in the ffwrnais awen, the furnace of the muse or poetic gift. These themes – communication, home, poetic inspiration – are present in Lewis’s Chaotic Angels: Poems in English, which brings together three collections to create a formidable body of work.

Chaotic Angels covers ten years of Lewis’s writing in English encompassing her early collection Parables and Faxes (1995), the playful Zero Gravity (1998) and the pinnacle of her achievement, Keeping Mum (2003). For the first time, the reader is able to map her journey towards the role that Lewis now plays as the National Poet of Wales. The book suggests the importance of Lewis’s English-language work, yet she is also a poet of Cymraeg (the Welsh language) who describes bilingualism as a feeling that ‘not everyone understands the whole of your personal speech’. One cannot help wondering why a volume mapping the trajectory of Lewis’s work does not include her poetry in Cymraeg, even if we admit the difficulties of co-operation between publishers. (Barddas publishes ...


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