Gwyneth Lewis BA MA D.Phil (born 1959 in Cardiff) is a Welsh poet, and was the first National Poet for Wales.
Born into a Welsh
speaking family, Lewis's father taught her English
when her mother went into hospital to give birth to her sister.
Lewis attended Ysgol Gyfun Rhydfelen, a bilingual school near Pontypridd, and then studied at Girton College, University of Cambridge and was awarded a double first in English literature and the Laurie Hart Prize for outstanding intellectual work. Lewis then studied creative writing at Columbia and Harvard, before receiving a D.Phil in English from University of Oxford, having written a thesis on eighteenth-century literary forgery on the work of Iolo Morganwg..
Lewis was made a Harkness Fellow and worked as a freelance journalist in New York for three years. Lewis returned to Cardiff and worked as a documentary producer and director at BBC Wales.
Lewis left the BBC in 2001 after she was awarded a £75,000 grant by the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts to carry out research and to sail to ports that are linked historically with the inhabitants of her native city, Cardiff.
She later wrote the words which appear over the Wales Millennium Centre which opened in November 2004, and in 2005 she was elected Honorary Fellow of Cardiff University. The same year she was made the first National Poet for Wales.
Lewis has entered the world of music, in partnership with Richard Chew
. "Redflight/ Barcud"
was her first libretto
, commissioned and presented by Welsh National Opera
with pupils from Ysgol Capel y Cynfab, Cynghordy and Ysgol Cil-y-cwm. "The Most Beautiful Man from the Sea"
is an oratorio
for six hundred voices, with music by Chew and Orlando Gough
. It was given its world premier at the Wales Millennium Centre
by the Chorus of Welsh National Opera and five hundred amateur singers.
Married to Leighton, a former bosun
with the Merchant Navy
, Lewis has had a well documented battle in the past with Clinical depression
. Her personal battles inspired her first book Sunbathing in the Rain: A Cheerful Book on Depression
; as well as the collection of poems "Keeping Mum - Voices from Therapy
Having agreed to change their lifestyles for their own good, Lewis and her husband bought the small yacht "Jameeleh," and having taught themselves to sail set out to cross the Atlantic ocean to Africa. The journey inspired her 2005 book Two in a Boat - The True Story of a Marital Rite of Passage.
- Llwybrau bywyd - Urdd Gobaith Cymru, 1977
- Ar y groesfford - Urdd Gobaith Cymru, 1978
- Sonedau Redsa a Cherddi Eraill - Gomer, 1990
- Parables and Faxes - Bloodaxe, 1995
- Cyfrif Un Ac Un yn Dri - Barddas, 1996
- Zero Gravity - Bloodaxe, 1998: inspired by her astronaut cousin's voyage to repair the Hubble Space Telescope, the BBC later made a documentary based on the poetry
- Y Llofrudd Iaith - Barddas, 2000: won the Welsh Arts Council Book of the Year Prize
- Sunbathing in the Rain: A Cheerful Book on Depression - Flamingo, 2002
- Keeping Mum (republished in 2005, as 'Chaotic Angels') - Bloodaxe, 2003
- Two In A Boat: A Marital Voyage - Fourth Estate, 2005: recounts a voyage which she made with her husband on a small boat from Cardiff to North Africa, during which her husband was diagnosed with cancer
Prizes and awards
Current list of prizes and awards:
- 1977 - Literary Medal at the Urdd Gobaith Cymru
- 1978 - Literary Medal at the Urdd Gobaith Cymru
- 1988 - Eric Gregory Award
- 1995 - Aldeburgh Poetry Festival Prize Parables and Faxes
- 1995 - Forward Poetry Prize (Best First Collection) (shortlist) Parables and Faxes
- 1998 - Forward Poetry Prize (Best Poetry Collection of the Year) (shortlist) Zero Gravity
- 2000 - Arts Council of Wales Book of the Year Award Y Llofrudd Iaith
- 2001 - National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) Award