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Llŷr Gwyn Lewis wins Urdd chair


Llyr Gwyn Lewis

Llŷr Gwyn Lewis was the winner of the chair at the 2010 Urdd Eisteddfod. Llŷr is a former student of the School of Welsh, and after spending a year in Oxford studying for a masters degree in Celtic Studies, he will return to the School in October to follow a PhD course.

Here’s a short interview with him where he talks about the winning poem, his inspiration and his plans for the future...

1. The poem is entitled ‘Tonnau’ (Waves), what is it about?

It starts with the Shipping Forecast on Radio 4, and it describes the cosy feeling of being tucked up in bed listening to the strange place names, imagining the ships out at sea. Then, I fall asleep and dream about being a sailor, and that’s the main image – sailing the seas as a metaphor for life. The radio waves lead us to the waves of the sea. 

At sea, there are storms but we are able to overcome those somehow; sometimes it’s harder when the sea is calm as we are more likely to worry about the future, and wait for the next storm. Then we depend too heavily upon the forecast.

2. How did you feel after hearing you had won the chair?

Within a few days of each other I received a letter about the chair and also a letter telling me I had won an AHRC scholarship to return to Cardiff next year and during all that I also had to submit my dissertation! So, I didn’t fully appreciate what had happened for a while. But I was thrilled and it made me feel that the hours I had spent writing the poem were worth it. It was good being able to tell close family but I was desperate to tell everyone else as well. Then, it was a matter of counting the days until the big day, and trying to control the nerves.

3. How long have you been writing creatively?

I think attempting to write developed naturally from reading, even when I was a child. I became interested in cynghanedd at a very young age, but then adolescence hit and other thing became more important. I only began writing poetry ‘seriously’ after leaving school.

4. What are your plans for the future?

In the near future – finish my exams and relax for a while! I intend to return to Cardiff in October to study for PhD with Simon Brooks in the School of Welsh and Katie Gramich in the School of English, Communication and Philosophy. I also hope I’ll get an opportunity to do some writing over the summer.

5. 19 competed for the Urdd chair this year. What do you think of this? Is it encouraging?

It’s very encouraging, especially when you consider all the predictions of woe as there was no winner last year. Maybe it’s a funny thing to say after winning with an ‘awdl’ (a strict metre poem), but I would like to see a free verse poem win in the future – it would be great to see a someone who had refined a free verse poem to such an extent that it surpasses all strict metre poems.   

6. Who are your literary heroes?

As I write, I try to say what’s on my mind as opposed to imitating other writers. But, with regard to poets, I must admit I always return to Waldo Williams, often because of his quiet confidence. Of today’s poets, apart from young poets like Eurig Salisbury, Hywel Griffiths and Rhys Iorwerth for whom I have great respect too, I think Myrddin ap Dafydd’s work, especially his collection ‘Llwybrau’ (Paths) is among the best stuff written in Welsh. In English, I have read more by Larkin and Yeats than anyone else, and I enjoy contemporary poets Bernard O’Donoghue, Carol Anne Duffy and Michael Laskey too.