Professor appointed National Poet of Wales

Welsh Books Council

Professor appointed National Poet of Wales - 13 July 2006

Professor Gwyn Thomas has been appointed as the National Poet of Wales and takes over the role from Gwyneth Lewis. His aim is to introduce poetry to a wide audience and to encourage poets to present their work to children. He has published 16 volumes of poetry, with a new collection due to appear later this year.

The following Press Release appears on the Academi website:

It’s been announced that the next National Poet for Wales will be Professor Gwyn Thomas. He will be following the footsteps of Gwyneth Lewis, who has recently finished her term as the first National Poet for Wales since the death of Dafydd ap Gwilym. His versatility as poet, children’s writer and heavyweight academic make him uniquely qualified to speak for poetry in Wales.

Classic tales from Wales 
His translation into English of the Mabinogion is perhaps the finest English language version of one of the brightest jewels of European literature; it also represents Gwyn’s supreme skill as a communicator on many levels: an academic of the highest order, he can also write delightfully for children.  Recently he published, in Welsh and English, a book on King Arthur, with illustrations by Margaret Jones; his Mabinogion translation was made with Kevin Crossley-Holland.

Gwyn as poet has published 16 volumes of poetry – his first, Chwerwder yn y Ffynhonnau (Bitterness in the Fountains) in 1962 and the latest Apocalups Yfory (Apocalypse Tomorrow) in 2005. His work has also been translated into English: Gwyn Thomas,  Living a Life: Selected Poems,  Translated by Joseph P. Clancy and Gwyn Thomas (Bridges Books, Amsterdam 1982)

Gwyn as literary and cultural critic has published several volumes of essays, critiques, adaptations and translations, including the classic Y Traddodiad Barddol – a study of the bardic traditions in Wales.

Poetry on Film
Unusually, he has stayed at the forefront of developments in the media and has consistently been an advocate of the film industry in Wales. He helped  pioneer techniques combining poetry and film and one of the earliest examples was his television poem for Martin Luther King, Cadwynau yn y Meddwl (Shackles of the Mind). He was one of the poets featured in the 2001 film Dal: Yma / Nawr, with international film stars Matthew Rhys and Ioan Gruffudd. Gwyn also adapted the Mabinogi tales for S4C’s animated film in 2002.

In accepting the post, Gwyn Thomas hopes to: "draw attention to the poets of Wales and their work, and try to show that poetry is a unique medium to respond to the world in which we live." 

Birthday celebrations
During his term as National Poet, Gwyn Thomas will be celebrating his 70th birthday. He will be reading and discussing his work in public, as well as writing poems for significant national events and occasions. He will be in conversation with his predecessor Gwyneth Lewis [but, sadly, not Dafydd ap Gwilym] at the Lloyd George Museum in Llanystumdwy on 27th July and will be joining film-maker Peter Greenaway as joint-guest speaker at Academi’s annual literary lunch in Portmeirion on 17 September 2006. [Tickets for this are available from Academi] 

A new volume of poetry will be published next year by Barddas and Gwasg Gwynedd will publish his autobiography.


Further Information
Gwyn Thomas is Emeritus Professor of Welsh at the University of Wales, Bangor. Born in 1936 in Tanygrisiau and raised in Blaenau Ffestiniog, he was educated at Ysgol Sir Ffestiniog, University of Wales, Bangor and Jesus College, Oxford.

Following a long campaign by Academi – the Welsh National Literature Promotion Agency and Society for Writers – the post of National Poet of Wales was established in May 2005 with support from the Arts Council of Wales. Peter Finch, Academi’s Chief Executive, said: "Establishing this post has been one of Academi’s aims for a long time, and we are very grateful to the Arts Council of Wales for their support. The first term under Gwyneth Lewis was extremely successful and it helped to raise the status of poetry in Wales. I would like to congratulate Gwyn Thomas for the appointment and we look forward another successful year."

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