It’s week three of Wales Readathon 21 and we look at a poem about the lure of the open sea by the first National Poet of Wales
As we roll into week three of Dewithon 21, I introduce you to one of the most prominent Welsh poets of her generation, often referred to as a ‘bilingual virtuoso’ – and without doubt one of my favourites.
Gwyneth Lewis was born into a Welsh-speaking family living in Cardiff in 1959. Bilingual from an early age, she attended Ysgol Gyfun Rhydfelen near Pontypridd before first going on to study English at Cambridge, followed by six years in America attending Harvard and Columbia universities, then finally completing a DPhil on literary forgeries at Oxford. Her first book in English, Parables & Faxes, won the Aldeburgh Festival Prize, and she has since received innumerable awards and accolades for her work in both languages.
She was Wales’s National Poet from 2005-06, the very first writer to be given the Welsh laureateship. She is also the person responsible for the bilingual words across the front the Wales Millennium Centre, in six-foot-high stained-glass letters, said to be the biggest poem in the world. Her 2002 biographical book, Sunbathing in the Rain: A Cheerful Book on Depression, was inspired by her well documented battle with clinical depression and alcoholism.
Sea Virus by Gwyneth Lewis
I knew I should never have gone below
but I did, and the fug of bilges and wood
caught me aback. The sheets of my heart
snapped taut to breaking, as a gale
stronger than longing filled the sail
inside me. To be shot of land
and its wood smoke! To feel the keel
cold in a current! To see the mast
inscribing water like a restless pen
writing a fading wake! It’s true,
I’m ruined. Not even peace will do
to keep me ashore now. Not even you.
Categories: Reading Wales