Bookcase Focus: An Interview with Llŷr Gwyn Lewis

Bookcase Focus: An Interview with Llŷr Gwyn Lewis

Wales Literature Exchange interviewed our Bookcase author Llŷr Gwyn Lewis about his writing and his influences.


1. What first inspired you to be an author and where do your ideas come from?

Being part of a society where writing seemed a viable and natural thing to do – sort of the done thing. I spent my childhood looking up to poets on TV, radio, in the Eisteddfod etc. It was almost a career that you could aspire to, and people seemed to place a certain value on writing (and if I’m honest, on the writer too) – so naturally it appealed. I have an autograph book at home full of poets’ autographs...

This changed slightly to writing (awful, truly awful) lyrics for my band during teenage years; then during A Levels and university, discovering English writers for the first time and rediscovering Welsh writers. This rereading led back to writing, naturally, but more as a way of making sense now of things around me. Also of being able to feel at home whenever home felt far away.

In terms of ideas: for prose I tend to take ideas from all over the place, but with poetry I seem to be at my most successful when writing from a personal, domestic, almost confessional standpoint. So I take inspiration mainly from the mundaneities, joys, frustrations and exaltations of boring old everyday life.


2. How would you describe your writing?

In general I tend to write poetry in all sorts of different ways/registers/voices. I’d say that I’m equally happy writing free verse and in cynghanedd, enjoying the challenges and the different kinds of freedoms that both forms present – and also the lessons they can teach each other. I’m also a strong believer that a poet can write for a range of occasions and audiences, so I enjoy composing the entertaining, public, talwrn and stomp poems, and the more directly political/polemical, as much as the close, intimate, quiet stuff. For rhwng dwy lein drên however I enjoyed having the tight focus of the pamphlet in order to concentrate on a particular style, strain and narrative, which is centred on the domestic whilst still engaging with, or at least displaying an awareness of, the way in which the world ‘outside’ seems to be falling into disarray and confusion.


3. Which authors have influenced you the most?

Very difficult to say. How do you separate the poets you enjoy from the poets that influence you? Are you aware of it? Though I could perhaps point to certain poets whose poems have had a direct influence over the years: Philip Larkin, Michael Laskey, Bernard O’Donoghue, Emyr Lewis, Twm Morys, Myrddin ap Dafydd – and I also take inspiration from music and song lyrics, trying to replicate or recreate a similar atmosphere. Perhaps in honesty, however, the biggest influences are the friends and contemporaries with whom I collaborate and discuss often – excellent poets such as Guto Dafydd, Gruffudd Eifion Owen, Casia Wiliam, Gwennan Evans, Gruffudd Antur and others. Being part of a vibrant poetry scene – even in lockdown – compels one to write more than anything else.


4. In your opinion what are the biggest challenges that writers face today – and do you think these challenges have changed since you started writing?

Time, always time; the internet and how easy it all is. Also, getting distracted in a direct way by the exact same worries, concerns and anxieties that the best writing interrogate tangentially/subtextually. Since I started writing? Of course there’s less time, but you tend to learn to make more of it.


5. What are the hardest and easiest parts of being a writer?

Thinking of something new to say and a new way of saying it, when a subject has been set and when deadlines press. The easiest part: I’d like to say that it’s when you’re in the zone, when it’s all flowing and the words are colliding. In truth the easiest parts of being a writer are when you’re not writing, and not even having to think about writing.


6. Which writer from Wales would you recommend to readers and why?

All kinds. This year I’ve really enjoyed Amser Mynd by Dyfan Lewis; Filo by Siân Melangell Dafydd and Eiliad ac Einioes by Casia Wiliam, among others. Also Patrick McGuinness’s Throw me to the wolves. A wonderful book of recent creative literary criticism is Y Dychymyg ôl-fodern by Rhiannon Marks. In translation it’s difficult to know what to recommend, but a perennial favourite is Angharad Price’s O! Tyn y Gorchudd, by now available in several languages – her latest book Ymbapuroli has just been published and is a wonderful collection of essays.


Rhwng Dwy Lein Drên was selected to the Wales Literature Exchange 2020 Bookcase, our annual selection of recent Welsh literary works which we recommend for translation.

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