Meic Stephens Lecture: A Last Respect

Featuring Glyn Mathias, Daniel G. Williams, GWYNETH LEWIS, Philip Gross & Robert Minhinnick. Chaired by Rhian edwards

Date: Friday 29th July
Time: 17:30
Venue: Theatre
Price: £5.00 / £3.00

This event will include BSL interpretation

A Last Respect (Seren) is both a showcase of contemporary Welsh poetry as well as a tribute to one particular poet who helped to make it all possible.

The anthology is the product of the Roland Mathias Prize for poetry which ran from 2005 to 2020 and which was named after someone who had fought for the recognition of Welsh writing in English.

Roland Mathias was himself a writer, a literary critic and editor who died aged 91 in 2005. He strongly believed that Welsh writers who wrote in English were just as much part of Welsh cultural life as those who wrote in Welsh. In post-war Wales that was not a widely held view: if you wrote in English you were an English author. The poetry published in A Last Respect is a tribute to the extent to which that view has disappeared into the past.

Roland Mathias was a Christian poet and a conscientious objector who was sentenced to two terms in prison for his beliefs. Despite that, he became the headmaster of a secondary school at the age of 33, the first of three schools he led, all the while producing volumes of poetry, critical works and editing the Anglo-Welsh Review for many years. He was, as Professor Jane Aaron notes in her introduction, ‘a man of letters’ of a kind less common in this more hurried age.

The work included in this anthology illustrates a wide variety of poetic styles. As Professor Daniel G. Williams notes in his Afterword, the poets adopt multiple viewpoints and ‘colliding linguistic registers’.  This anthology of eleven leading poets is a celebration of the best of modern Welsh writing and indeed ‘a last respect’ to Roland Mathias.

This event will include BSL interpretation

Authors

Glyn Mathias worked for more than 30 years in journalism, becoming Political Editor for ITN and then for BBC Wales. He subsequently served as the first Electoral Commissioner for Wales and as the Welsh Member on the Ofcom Content Board in London. His autobiography, Raising an Echo, was published in 2014. He was Chair of the Roland Mathias Prize Committee and in 2021 was co-editor of A Last Respect, an anthology of the poetry which won the Roland Mathias Prize. He lives in Brecon.

Professor Daniel G. Williams is Director of the Richard Burton Centre for the Study of Wales at Swansea University. He is the author of Wales Unchained: Literature, Politics and Identity in the American Century (2015), Black Skin, Blue Books: African Americans and Wales 1845-1945 (2012), and Ethnicity and Cultural Authority: from Arnold to Du Bois (2006). He was an adjudicator of the Roland Mathias Prize from 2009-11 and co-edited A Last Respect.

Gwyneth Lewis smiling into the camera.

Gwyneth Lewis was Wales’s National Poet from 2005-06. She wrote the bilingual words for the front of the iconic Wales Millennium Centre. She’s an award-winning poet. Her most recent collection is Sparrow Tree (Bloodaxe Books). She has published seventeen books of poetry, non-fiction and, with Rowan Williams, a translation of The Book of Taliesin (Penguin Classics). Gwyneth was awarded a Cholmondely Award by the Society of Authors in 2010. She’s a freelance writer and teacher and has held a number of fellowships in the US, where she’s taught at Princeton University and is a faculty member of Middlebury College’s Bread Loaf School of English in Vermont where, in 2016 she was the Robert Frost Chair of Literature. Photo credit: Edward Brown.

Philip Gross lives in South Wales and has published some twenty collections of poetry, including Between The Islands (Bloodaxe, 2020). The Water Table won the T.S.Eliot Prize in 2009. He received a Cholmondeley Award in 2017; his science-based collection for young people, Dark Sky Park (Otter-Barry Books, 2018) was shortlisted for the CLiPPA award, 2019. He is a keen collaborator, e.g. with artist Valerie Coffin Price and Welsh-language poet Cyril Jones on Troeon/Turnings (Seren, 2021) and with poet Lesley Saunders on A Part of the Main (Mulfran, 2018). A new Bloodaxe collection, The Thirteenth Angel, is published November 2022. www.philipgross.co.uk Photo credit: Stephen Morris.

Robert Minhinnick is one of Wales’ (some would say Britain’s) most eminent writers. He is a multi-prizewinning poet, essayist and novelist whose work has won or been shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize, the Forward Prize for Poetry, the RSL Ondaatje Prize, the Sunday Times Short Story Award, the Edge Hill Short Story Prize and Wales Book of the Year. 

Minhinnick is also an environmentalist and founder of Friends of the Earth Cymru and Sustainable Wales, who has written extensively on the environment. He recently edited Gorwelion: Shared Horizons (Parthian, 2021) a book of essays about climate change.  Photo credit: Eamon Burke.

Rhian Edwards is a multi-award winning poet and the newly appointed poetry editor of Seren. Her first collection Clueless Dogs (Seren 2012) won Wales Book of the Year 2013, the Roland Mathias Prize for Poetry 2013 and the People’s Choice 2013. It was also shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection 2012. Rhian’s second collection The Estate Agent’s Daughter (Seren 2020) was a National Poetry Day Recommended Read for 2020. Rhian has two pamphlets of poems Parade the Fib, (Tall-Lighthouse 2008), Poetry Book Society Choice for autumn 2008 and Brood (Seren 2017), a pamphlet of illustrated bird poems.