Gwyneth Lewis, Poet
This month, I’m taking part in Blogging from A 2 Z April Challenge where each day, writers use the letters of the alphabet as a prompt. The main theme of my blogs for the challenge are to write about female poets as this is National Poetry Month. This is also a great way to learn more about poetry.
I wasn’t familiar with any female poets whose name began with the letter “L” so I searched through a list. I also wanted to stay within the not too distant past so research would be easier. The list of female poets begins in antiquity! Gwyneth Lewis caught my eye. When I read one of her poems, Gleision, I knew I had to write about her! The poem gave me chills with its imagery of frightened families waiting and hoping near the entrance of the mine for word of their loved one’s safety, or worse, death. “The cave’s an open mouth whose words are men who work their mountain.” The open mouth of the cave has black breath. Those waiting there must not ring the bell anymore or the mouth will swallow the miners trapped deep within the mountain. Lewis uses the literary device of personification to write about the accident. By writing about the mountain with its open black mouth with evil, monster-like characteristics, the poet creates emotion for the reader to maybe experience the deaths in sympathy with the families. Instead of reading a dry news account with facts, poetry is art through which a reader can be part of the story. I live in a mining town where many of my family members work, and this poem especially resonated with me. The mine employs thousands of workers, so it wouldn’t be far-fetched to say the whole town works there. We all have such images of disasters in our minds but push those images far back. http://www.gwynethlewis.com/news.shtml
The website Literary Devices https://literarydevices.net/personification/ explains the term as “Personification is a figure of speech in which an idea or thing is given human attributes and/or feelings or is spoken of as if it were human. Personification is a common form of metaphor in that human characteristics are attributed to nonhuman things. This allows writers to create life and motion within inanimate objects, animals, and even abstract ideas by assigning them recognizable human behaviors and emotions.”
Tops of trees, their roots in seams
Of dark. King under mountain.
The cave’s an open mouth whose words
Are men who work their mountain.
Pine, larch and oak. Don’t touch the bell
That tolls from out the mountain
Or he will stir, and miners die
Like light inside a mountain.
His breath is black and marks each face
That seeks beneath the mountain.
Leaves drift down, but they won’t heal
The sentence of the mountain.
It’s time to lose all hope and seal
The grave. King lies in his mountain.
“The cave’s an open mouth whose words are men who work their mountain.”
Poet Gwyneth Lewis was born in 1959 in Cardiff, Wales. She studied English at Cambridge University. Lewis also studied at Harvard and Columbia, was a Harkness Fellow, and worked as a freelance journalist in New York. Gwyneth Lewis was Wales’s National Poet from 2005-06, the first writer to be given the Welsh laureateship. She published eight books of poetry in Welsh and English, with a ninth forthcoming in October. Gwyneth’s first non-fiction book, Sunbathing in the Rain: A Cheerful Book about Depression (2002), was short-listed for the Mind Book of the Year. Her second, Two in a Boat: A Marital Voyage (2005), recounts a voyage made with her husband on a small boat from Cardiff to North Africa. In 2014 she was Bain-Swiggett Visiting Lecturer of Poetry and English at Princeton University. 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.
“Please don’t let all that suffering go to waste […] People who ignore depression are the ones who go mad, not those who go through it and treat it with the respect it deserves.”