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Last Updated: Friday, 29 April, 2005, 13:32 GMT 14:32 UK
Lewis is chosen as national poet
Gwyneth Lewis (picture Tim Brett)
Gwyneth Lewis says she will let the poetry inspire her
Gwyneth Lewis, who wrote the inscription at the front of the Wales Millennium Centre, has been named the country's first national poet.

Ms Lewis will be inaugurated in her role at the Hay Literature Festival.

She described her new role as an "honour" and said she wanted to use it to connect with areas of life which are not traditionally poetic.

She said she will be paid just a "nominal" amount in the role which will make her a Welsh cultural ambassador.

"It's a huge privilege to be representing poetry in Wales, where we have a poetic tradition stretching back to the 6th Century and fully present in the 21st," said Ms Lewis.

Her work encompasses both English and Welsh poetry and non-fiction writing, with a new book out next week.

The brief is there's nothing prescriptive. It's being left up to the muse.
Gwyneth Lewis

While Wales has a long poetic tradition largely centre around the chairing and crowning of poets at the National Eisteddfod, her role will the first to serve Wales nationally and through both languages.

"I think poetry is more useful than just being poetry, It teaches a lot about how to be creative in life."

The exact nature of Ms Lewis role as national poet has still to be defined, although she will not like England's poet laureate, be required to write verse for specific formal occasions.

She said she will be "inspired" in what she writes.

"The brief is there's nothing prescriptive," she said. "It's being left up to the muse. It depends what poetry decides to come," she said, adding she believes that poems should not be a direct translation of each other.

She already has two recent works in her national poet's portfolio.

One, 'The Ball Between Us", celebrates Wales' historic Grand slam win on the rugby field, and the second Maen Hir Er Cof am Gwynfor Evans is an elegy in Welsh to the former Plaid Cymru leader and MP who died last week.

The Wales Millennium Centre
Ms Lewis poem in Welsh and English is written large on the millennium centre

Ms Lewis said it had been a remarkable year, particularly because of her words "In these stones horizons sing" written large on Wales Millennium Centre, the landmark new arts centre dominating Cardiff Bay.

"I find it quite shocking to see them so large - I'm still not used to it," she said.

She has written six books of poetry in Welsh and English, and two non-fiction works.

Her first Sunbathing in the Rain: A Cheerful Book on Depression dealt with the writer's emergence from a bout of depression.

Her second non-fiction work Two in a Boat: A Marital Voyage about the sea journey she undertook with the aid of a 75,000 fellowship is to be published in London next week, and Cardiff later in the month.

Ms Lewis and her husband Leighton Davies had to leave their boat in North Africa and return to the UK for treatment when he was diagnosed with lymphoma. Mr Davies' illness is still in remission.

The National Poet role is administered by Academi, the Welsh writing body.

Chief Executive Peter Finch said: "I am delighted that poetry in Wales at last has a national champion. Gwyneth Lewis is the perfect choice".

Poet gets 75,000 for sea odyssey
16 Feb 01 |  Entertainment


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