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This interview is taken from PN Review 113, Volume 23 Number 3, January - February 1997.

In Conversation with Gwyneth Lewis Richard Poole

RICHARD POOLE: Gwyneth, I'd like to start by airing the subject of bilingualism. You write and publish poetry in both your languages, Welsh and English. To someone like me, struggling to write hal.fdecent poems in one language, this is unnerving. But then it occurs to me that at least I know what language a poem's going to arrive in (if and when it does arrive). Are there drawbacks to being a bilingual poet, uncertainties to be untangled, confusions to be solved? Is it possible for a poem to arrive in the wrong language or a mixture of languages?


GWYNETH LEWIS: Because a language isn't just a matter of words, being a bilingual poet has been fraught with pressures and contradictions for me. A literary tradition is made from a whole complex of historical and political experiences, and when you're heir to two traditions which have been at one another's throats for centuries and continue to be, there are interesting clashes of values and loyalties. However, if I wasn't doing the most natural thing to me by writing in both languages, there would be something forced, and therefore wrong, about it. I've been bilingual since the age of two and a half and so writing in both languages is the most complete and joyful way I know of praising and describing my world. It's not a political decision, it predates that in my linguistic psyche.

The advantages are those of having access to two literary traditions ...


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