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

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


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 essay 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’. 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.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDevolutionary Readings
Subtitle of host publicationEnglish Language Poetry and Contemporary Wales
EditorsMatthew Jarvis
Place of PublicationBern, Switzerland
PublisherPeter Lang Publishing Group
Number of pages31
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-78874-070-8, 978-1-78874-069-2, 978-1-78874-071-5
ISBN (Print)978-3-0343-1975-1
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Publication series

NameModern Poetry
PublisherPeter Lang
ISSN (Print)1661-2744


  • Gwyneth Lewis
  • Poetry
  • Dafydd ap Gwilym
  • Translation
  • Wales


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