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Anglo-Welsh poetry is poetry written by Welsh people in English.

Definition[edit | edit source]

There is no clear definition of what constitutes Anglo-Welsh poetry, and the term tends to be replaced by the broader "Welsh writing in English" or Welsh literature in English. It includes poetry written by Welsh people whose 1st language is English, but it also includes poetry by those born outside Wales, but of Welsh descent, whose work is influenced by their Welsh roots.

Glyn Jones, in The Dragon Has Two Tongues, defines Anglo-Welsh writers as "those Welsh men and women who write in English about Wales".[1]

Welsh poetry in English is not necessarily influenced by the historically much longer, and parallel, tradition of poetry in Welsh, but it may be influenced by the English dialects of Wales.

Beginnings[edit | edit source]

The earliest-known poem in English by a Welshman was Hymn to the Virgin written c.1470 by Ieuan ap Hywel Swrdwal. Well into the 19th century, English was spoken by few in Wales, and prior to the early 20th century there are only 3 major Welsh-born writers who wrote in the English language: George Herbert (1593-1633) from Montgomeryshire, Henry Vaughan (1622-1695) from Brecknockshire, and John Dyer (1699-1757) from Carmarthenshire. Such Welsh poets who wrote in the English language tended to imitate the conventions of English verse and only in translations from the Welsh did a national voice succeed in making itself heard.[2]

Early 20th century[edit | edit source]

Welsh writing in English is generally seen as beginning in the 20th century,[3] following the decline of the Welsh language. Some see the beginnings of Anglo-Welsh poetry in the work of poets such as Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-89), Edward Thomas (1878-1917), and Wilfred Owen (1893-1918).

While David Jones (1895-1974) was born in a London suburb, his father was from North Wales. Jones' epic poem In Parenthesis, which deals with his experience of World War I, was published in 1937, though he belongs more to the post-WWII era, as does Swansea poet Vernon Watkins (1906-1967).

A memorable 20th-century poet was Idris Davies (1905-1953). Davies initially wrote in Welsh; but "rebellion against chapel religion", along with the "inspirational influence of English" poets, led him to write in English (Gwalia Deserta (1938), The Angry Summer (1943)).

A major Welsh poet is Swansea's Dylan Thomas (1914-1953) whose debut collection, 18 Poems, was published in 1934. His most celebrated work, including Under Milk Wood (originally broadcast in 1954), was published after World War II.

After World War II[edit | edit source]

R.S. Thomas (1913-2000) was the most eminent Welsh poet writing in English throughout the last half of the 20th century, beginning with The Stones of the Field (1946) and concluding with No Truce with the Furies (1995).[4]

In the latter part of the 20th century, Welsh poetry in English flourished. A landmark event was the 1967 publication of Bryn Griffith's anthology Welsh Voices. Tony Conran is an important figure in this so-called 2nd flowering as critic, poet, and translator of Welsh poetry. His Penguin Book of Welsh Verse (1967) has been especially helpful in bridging the gap between the Welsh and English speaking.

Swansea poet Harri Webb's (1920-1994) verse, including The Green Desert (1969), is marked in its themes by his radical and uncompromising commitment to Welsh nationalist politics. Another prominent poet of the late 20th century is Tony Curtis from Carmarthen. John Trip (1927-86), a convinced Welsh nationalist, had worked outside Wales until his early forties. Robert Minhinnick, born in 1952, is also a notable poet from the latter half of the 20th century, who edited Poetry Wales magazine from 1997 to 2008.

Welsh writing in English from the beginning tended to be dominated by men, but the period after World War II produced some distinguished Welsh women poets, including Ruth Bidgood (1922- ), Gillian Clarke (1937- ), and Sheenagh Pugh (1950- ).

Amongst other poets of the second half of the twentieth century, the names of Roland Mathias (1915-2007), Leslie Norris (1921-2006), John Ormond (1923-1990), Dannie Abse (1923- ), Raymond Garlick (1926- ), Peter Finch (1947- ), and perhaps also Paul Groves (1947- ) have a significant place.

With regard to the current situation of Welsh poetry in English, Ian Gregson suggests that "much of the most exciting poetry in Britain is being written in Wales." He singles out Oliver Reynolds (1957- ), Gwyneth Lewis (1959- ), and Stephen Knight (1960- ) as having fulfilled "their early promise." [5]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  • Anthony Conran, The Cost of Strangeness: Essays on the English poets of Wales. Gwasg Gomer,1982.
  • Raymond Garlick, An Introduction to Anglo-Welsh Literature. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1970.
  • Ian Gregson. The New Poetry in Wales. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2007.
  • Jeremy Hooker, The Presence of the Past: Essays on modern British and American Poets. Bridgend, UK: Poetry Wales Press, 1987.
  • Jeremy Hooker, Imagining Wales: A view of modern Welsh writing in English. Cardiff: University of Wales Pres, 2001.
  • Dafydd Johnston, A Pocket Guide: The literature of Wales. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1994.
  • Glyn Jones, The Dragon Has Two Tongues (1968). Revised edition (edited by Tony Brown), Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2001.
  • Roland Mathias, Anglo-Welsh Literature: An illustrated history . Bridgend: Poetry Wales Press, 1987.
  • Meic Stephens, ed., The New Companion to the Literature of Wales. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1998.
  • M. Wynn Thomas, Corresponding Cultures: The Two Literatures of Wales. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1999.
  • Ned Thomas, Welsh Extremist. London: Gollancz, 1971; Y Lolfa, 1991.

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Glyn Jones, The Dragon Has Two Tongues, 37.
  2. See Dafydd Johnston, A Pocket Guide: The Literature of Wales. University of Wales Press: Cardiff, 1994., p. 91; Belinda Humfrey, "Prelude to the Twentieth Century", in Welsh Writing in English, ed. M. Wynn Thomas. University of Wales Press: Cardiff, 2003, pp. 5-46.
  3. A Pocket Guide, 102.
  4. Los Angeles Times, "Obituary", September 27, 2000
  5. The New Poetry in Wales. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2007, 1.

External links[edit | edit source]

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