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Famous Welsh Poets

What’s in a Name?

The tiny country of Wales is part of the larger United Kingdom but despite its diminutive stature has produced much talent across the many genres of the art world. The world of poetry is well represented by a number of talented men and women. Some names are traditionally associated with certain countries and perhaps for Wales none more so then the last name Thomas. It is therefore no surprise that at least three well known poets of that name hale from this modest land.

Dylan Thomas is perhaps the most famous of all the poets to call Wales their birth place and Thomas their name! Born in Swansea in 1914 he only lived to be 39 dying in New York in 1953. Whilst most known for the play ‘Under Milk Wood’, he published numerous poems and remains Wales’ most memorable son.

Ronald Stuart Thomas, who published under the name RS Thomas, was a contemporary of Dylan, being born a mere year before in 1913. In addition to being a poet he was also a priest and this greatly influenced his writing as did his nationalistic views. His writing career spanned some fifty years and produced more then 20 books of poetry for which he was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1996 at the ripe old age of 83!

Edward Thomas was actually born in London but of Welsh parents, so he definitely qualifies to be among this group. He sadly only lived to be 39 years old, his life cut short in the First World War in 1917. It was a meeting with the American poet Robert Frost that persuaded Edward to pursue the literary career he had always aspired to and whilst he was a contemporary of the First World War poets, he did not make this his primary focus in the same way as many who served in the trenches. He was most attracted to aspects of nature and the changing landscape of the time he lived in, using these elements to discover ways to express his personal feelings and provide a commentary of the time he lived through.

Some Others

More recently we have seen the rise of female poets and Gillian Clarke has in no small way contributed to this development. Born in Cardiff in 1937 she was raised by parents who both spoke their native tongue although it wasn’t until later that Gillian learned to speak Welsh. She went on to become an award-winning poet whose work is not only critically acclaimed but studied by students throughout the U.K and beyond having been translated into ten languages and earning her the title of National Poet.

Also hailing from Cardiff, Gwyneth Lewis was similarly born into a Welsh speaking family rendering her bilingual from an early age. She has published several books of poetry for which she has won numerous prizes and continues to be a force within the artistic world. The quality and diversity of artistry emerging from this tiny country speaks to the enduring qualities of the this very creative culture.