Writing in Two Languages – Gwyneth Lewis

What makes Gwyneth Lewis a unique poet is her decision to write poetry in both the English and Welsh languages. She has published completely different volumes of poetry in the two languages and it is only Welsh language speakers who get to discover how these languages inform her view of life in Wales today.

Gwyneth Lewis was born into a Welsh speaking family. Without her mother’s knowledge, Lewis’s father taught her English at the age of three. Lewis’s account of these lessons inspired a poem which is included in the collection ‘Keeping Mum’. ‘Keeping Mum’ explores the connection between mental illness and the death of language and what this means for someone who is bilingual. Lewis’s ability to adjust work written in Welsh and use it in the English language is showcased in this collection. It originally started as a translation of her Welsh collection ‘Y Llofrudd Iaith’ (The Language Murderer) but evolved in different ways into an English language text. As a Welsh person unable to speak the Welsh language, ‘Keeping Mum’ is a fascinating insight into the thoughts of someone who is bilingual. 

Gwyneth Lewis is a successful Welsh poet and was the inaugural National Poet of Wales, a position currently held by Gillian Clarke. Gwyneth also wrote the words that appear on the facade of the Wales Millennium Centre: Creu Gwir Fel Gwydr O Ffwrnais Awen


The Wales Millennium Centre