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This article is taken from PN Review 127, Volume 25 Number 5, May - June 1999.

Travelling on the Word-Bus: Gwyneth Lewis's Welsh Poetry Angharad Price

Gwyneth Lewis writes poetry in both Welsh and English. She has published two collections of poetry in Welsh, Sonedau Redsa ('The Sonnets of Redsa') in 1990, and Cyfrif Un ac Un yn Dri ('Counting One and One as Three') in 1996, and two collections of poetry in English, Parables and Faxes (1995) and Zero Gravity (1998). Her early literary activity seems to have been predominantly in Welsh. In 1977 and 1978 she won the Literature medal at the National Urdd Youth Eisteddfod with the volumes, Llwybrau Bywyd ('The Paths of Life') and Ar y Groesffordd ('On the Cross-road'), respectively. Most of her recent essays and poems have been, to all appearances, in English.

Bilingualism forms the theme of two essays by Gwyneth Lewis: 'Whose coat is that jacket? Whose hat is that cap?', published in Poetry Review 85, and 'On Writing Poetry in Two Languages', published in the 'Welsh' issue (no. 7) of Modern Poetry in Translation, edited by Dafydd Johnston. In both essays she emphatically asserts her right to write poetry in two languages: in Welsh, her mother tongue, and in English, the other language of Wales which Gwyneth Lewis read as an undergraduate at Cambridge.

Bilingualism is crucial to any understanding of Gwyneth Lewis's work. It manifests itself in her constant concern with the corporeality of language, with the written language, in particular. The interfusion of two distinct literary traditions lies at the core of her understanding - and handling - of poetic ...


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