Gwyneth Lewis

Lewis, Gwyneth

Poet Gwyneth Lewis was born in 1959 in Cardiff, Wales. She attended a bilingual school in Pontypridd and studied English at Cambridge University. She furthered her studies at Harvard and Columbia, was a Harkness Fellow, and worked as a freelance journalist in New York. She returned to Britain and worked in television. 

In 2001 she was awarded a grant by the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (Nesta) to sail to ports linked historically with her native city, Cardiff.

Gwyneth Lewis writes both in Welsh, her first language, and in English. Her first collection written in English, Parables and Faxes (Bloodaxe, 1995), was shortlisted for the Forward Prize (Best First Collection) and won the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival Prize. She won an Eric Gregory Award in 1988. Zero Gravity (Bloodaxe, 1998) was shortlisted for the Forward Poetry Prize (Best Collection) and was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. The poems in the collection were inspired by work on the Hubble telescope. Y Llofrudd Iaith (The Language Murderer, Barddas, 2000) won the Arts Council of Wales Book of the Year Award. Her first non-fiction book, Sunbathing in the Rain: A Cheerful Book on Depression, was published in 2002 - a remarkable book on depression. Keeping Mum (Bloodaxe) was published in 2003 and was shortlisted for the Welsh Arts Council Book of the Year. 

In 2004 Lewis was named as one of the Poetry Book Society’s ‘Next Generation’ poets. She was appointed Wales’s first National Poet from 2005-6 and she also composed the inscription that appears above the Wales Millennium Centre. In 2005, her second non-ficiton book, Two in a Boat: A Marital Voyage (Fourth Estate, 2005), was published; it tells of the voyage she took with her husband in a small boat from Cardiff to North Africa. Gwyneth Lewis published A Hospital Odyssey (Bloodaxe, 2010), an epic poem of a journey through illness and death, and Sparrow Tree (Bloodaxe, 2011), winner of the Wales Book of the Year 2012 poetry category. Her latest volume of Welsh-language poetry, Treiglo (Barddas), was published in November 2017.

In 2008-09 Gwyneth was the Mildred Londa Wiseman Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies at Harvard University and in 2009-10 Joint Sica/Stanford Humanities Center Fellow in the Arts and Humanities at Stanford University. In 2010 she was given a Society of Authors Cholmondeley Award recognizing a body of work and achievement of distinction. Gwyneth is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, a Vice President of the Poetry Society and an Honorary Fellow of Cardiff University. In 2014 she was Bain-Swiggett Visiting Lecturer of Poetry and English at Princeton University.

Her first television screenplay, Y Streic a Fi ('The Strike and Me'), commissioned by S4C, won the 2015 BAFTA Wales for Best Drama. Gwyneth is also a writer of fiction: The Meat Tree (2010), a space-age re-imagining of the tale of Blodeuwedd, is part of Seren’s New Stories from the Mabinogion series. Her light-hearted novella, Advantages of the Older Man (Seren, 2014), explores the strange case of a Swansea woman who is apparently possessed by the ghost of Dylan Thomas.

Gwyneth is a librettist and dramatist and has written two chamber operas for children and an oratorio, all commissioned and performed by Welsh National Opera. She is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, a member of the Welsh Academi and a NESTA Fellow.

For the last three years she has been Faculty at Bread Loaf School of English, Vermont, USA and was the 2016 Robert Frost Chair of Literature.