June 11, 2007

Menna Elfyn on how 'Writing is a Bird in the Hand'

In this essay, Menna Elfyn explains how her work is different from the convention in Welsh poetry: ‘I have written very little about Wales or the language, rebelling in doing so against the armchair protest verses written during the seventies and eighties’ (281). Elfyn has an interesting life experience which has effected her view of poetry:

A law-breaking dreamer, I eventually went to prison myself as a language activist, but came out a feminist. Imprisonment brought home to me the existence of another silenced war, waged this time against women. But here there was no slogan painting. No visible clear-cut answer to this campaign. No breaking of the symbols of oppression. I remember pontificating in prison about language and injustice to women who were themselves bereft of language, that is, of a language expressive of the female condition. (282)

Later Elfyn found that ‘[s]earching for wholeness in a world that marginalises and divides one into Welsh, woman, poet, requires a great deal of questioning and contemplation’ (284). Elfyn sees Welsh-speakers and women as ‘second class citizens’ (284). Interestingly though, Elfyn is a poet who is interested in world events taking place beyond Wales and she states that while writing poems about ‘linguistic disposession’, she found food for the poems ‘while seeing the Kurds being driven out of their land’ (284).

Our Sister’s Land: The Changing Identities of Women in Wales. Ed. Jane Aaron, Teresa Rees, Sandra Betts and Moira Vincentelli. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1994. (280– 286).

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