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Gwybodaeth Lyfryddol
Gender Studies in Wales: Poetry, Geography, Gender - Women Rewriting Contemporary Wales
Alice Entwistle
ISBN: 9780708326695 (0708326692)Dyddiad Cyhoeddi Awst 2013
Cyhoeddwr: Gwasg Prifysgol Cymru / University of Wales Press, Caerdydd
Fformat: Clawr Meddal, 216x138 mm, 272 tudalen Iaith: Saesneg Ar gael Ein Pris: £24.99 
Does dim Adolygiad Cwsmer i'r teitl hwn.
 
Ysgrifennwch Adolygiad Cwsmer
Yn yr astudiaeth newydd ac arloesol hon o'r cysylltiadau rhwng testun a lle, mynegiant creadigol a hunaniaeth ddiwylliannol, mae Alice Entwistle yn dangos sut y defnyddir y testun barddonol gan rai o feirdd benywaidd gorau Cymru i adlewyrchu'r cymhlethdodau gwleidyddol-ddiwylliannol o ysgrifennu yng Nghymru, ac am y cartref diwylliannol a rannant.

In this ground-breaking new study of the connections between text and place, creative expression and cultural identity, Alice Entwistle demonstrates how some of Wales's finest female poets use the poetic text to reflect on the cultural-political complexities of writing in, or about, their shared cultural home.
Alice Entwistle opens her book with a pertinent Gwyneth Lewis quotation: ‘Creu gwir fel gwydr o ffwrnais awen / In these stones horizons sing’. This is a clever selection and links, metonymically, to the broader foci of the volume: contemporary ‘Welsh’ women writers and their connections via literature to the stones and horizons of Wales. By dividing her chapters up into regions (with romantic titles such as ‘Frontier Country: Christine Evans’), and by the principal writers that inhabit those areas, Entwistle presents a complex thesis in an accessible structure that is both rewarding and informative.

Entwistle’s remit – to act as cartographer to the landscape of Welsh female writers – initially deals with the thorny politics of ‘Welshness’. This is a vexed question but of course informs the choices made by the author in the first place. Should Pascale Petit be included (whose work, Kathryn Gray points out, ‘bears little trace of engagement with a coherent Welsh tradition’), or Bangor-based Zoё Skoulding, who was born in Bradford but has contributed significantly to the arts culture of Wales both as a writer and an editor of Poetry Wales? There are obvious choices, such as the Welsh-speaking former laureate Gwyneth Lewis and Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch, but do they respond to ‘Welshness’ in a way that would justify academic scrutiny in Entwistle’s book?

The author does well to acknowledge the frankly matted and provocative central question behind her decisions, and therefore proves herself a trustworthy tour guide for the rest of the book. Her narrative is wonderfully multi-vocal too. She brings in supporting voices from across the pantheon of Welsh culture generally (Francesca Rhydderch registering the ‘linguistic and cultural schizophrenia’ of how we self-interpret our literatures, or the author Stephen Knight wondering whether ‘people shape a culture or does culture shape people’, for example) to prove the depth of her research.

Sometimes, the connections (or disconnections) between the land and the literature overlay perfectly. Gillian Clarke, for instance, is quoted as follows, ‘From where I write I see a landscape open like a book, a landscape of valleys and hills typical of the view from the ... writing desk of many a Welsh writer from any of the seven counties of Wales ... I can name the fields on my side of the valley, and a few on the other side. Valleys, and a land that is tilted to face its neighbour, makes for tight communities and open lives ...’, whereas the writing of American writer Anna Stevenson is informed by the separateness that defines her aesthetic: ‘In Wales,’ she writes, ‘I cannot be more than a passionate observer’.

Alternatively, Entwistle’s self-complicating arguments resolve themselves in fascinatingly unexpected ways. The insistence of having to assert oneself as ‘outsider, native or newcomer, custodian or usurper’ can sometimes result in writing that moves outside politics and beyond the symbolic, into a realm that screams against the crosswinds of patriarchal parameters. Or, as Katie Gramich describes, this placement at the site of ‘contestation, contingent and in flux’ can inform the character of a writer’s creativity (hence why Wales is arguably such a fertile ground for literary ingenuity). The case is reasoned perfectly in an (understandably) generous chapter on Lewis in which the poet’s output is shown to spring directly from her ‘richly conflicted sense of cultural identity’. Lewis’s thematic returns to a keynote of treachery, and the quest narrative that sometimes asserts itself beneath her poetry, are invested primarily in the poet’s ‘hazardous’ bilingualism and the personal language choices that she makes, which can be interpreted in such complicated ways.

Overall, this book collates engaging insights into some of Wales’s most prominent writers, well-chosen extracts of poetry and a compelling exploration of female writing in this country. It is satisfyingly academic (name-checking Cixious, Foucault, Derrida) whilst being clear to read. It is also incredibly varied and moves easily from discussing Skoulding’s deliberate and joyful tangling up of the Preseli mountains and Brussels, to a future demarcated by Tiffany Atkinson’s Catulla and Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch’s Banjo. A satisfying read for anybody interested in modern Welsh literature.

Jemma L. King


It is possible to use this review for promotional purposes, but the following acknowledgment should be included: A review from www.gwales.com, with the permission of the Welsh Books Council.

Gellir defnyddio'r adolygiad hwn at bwrpas hybu, ond gofynnir i chi gynnwys y gydnabyddiaeth ganlynol: Adolygiad oddi ar www.gwales.com, trwy ganiatâd Cyngor Llyfrau Cymru.
Tabl Cynnwys:
1. On the Border(s): The interstitial poetries of the contact zone
2. ‘Not without strangeness’: Ruth Bidgood’s unhomely mid-Wales
3. Frontier Country: Christine Evans
4. ‘A kind of authentic lie’: Gwyneth Lewis and the lyric sequence
5. Traverses, Ireland/Wales: Gillian Clarke, Christine Evans and Catherine Fisher
6. Wales and/or thereabouts: Sheenagh Pugh, Wendy Mulford and Zoë Skoulding
Bywgraffiad Awdur:
Alice Entwistle is Principal Lecturer in English at the University of Glamorgan. Co-author with Jane Dowson of A History of Twentieth Century British Women’s Poetry (Cambridge, 2005), she has published widely on poetries voicing the relationship between politics and identity in and beyond the cultural complex of the so-called British Isles.
Gwybodaeth Bellach:
Poetry, Geography, Gender explores literary and geographical analysis, cultural criticism and gender politics in the work of such well-known literary figures as Gwyneth Lewis, Menna Elfyn, Christine Evans and Gillian Clarke, alongside newer names like Zoë Skoulding and Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch. Drawing on her unpublished interviews with many of the featured poets, Alice Entwistle examines how and why their various senses of affiliation with a shared cultural hinterland should encourage us to rethink the relationship between nation, identity and literary aesthetics in post-devolution Wales. This series of lively and detailed close readings reveals how writers use the textual terrain of the poem, both literally and metaphorically, to register and script aesthetic as well as geo-political and cultural-historical change. As an innovative critical study, this volume thus takes particular interest in the ways in which author, text and territory help to inform and produce each other in the culturally complex and confident small nation that is twenty-first-century Wales.
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