Knowing when to stop

My bibliography is growing long and as time goes on most of the texts I’m reading are less useful and have only a tenuous link with my project direction. There are still a few key items that I need to get my head round, and some I’m waiting on accessing from or at other libraries – but for the most part I’m beginning to feel that reading is getting lethargic.

Before I fully write about my research aims in my first chapter I’m going to include a literature review in order to collate what already exists in the field and consider how this fits in with my project. I feel confident that I’m aware of the issues and current scholarship, but I’ve thought about starting writing for so long it is beginning to daunt me more than it should.

So, perhaps it is as much a case of knowing when to stop as knowing when to start.

‘Aim for the dark. It’s your only hope.’
Gwyneth Lewis, ‘Panic Attack’, Keeping Mum (2003)

‘plenty to think about’

I’m really getting my teeth into the concept of Anglo-Welsh poetry today, in part spurred on by the following:

‘If you define literature in terms of language only, then a Welshman who writes in English is an English author – which would give Americans, Australians, Scotsmen and West Indians plenty to think about.’
Gwyn Jones, The Oxford Book of Welsh Verse in English (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977)

I’ve also made some very positive steps towards an interview with Lewis which would give me the valuable opportunity to bounce my ideas off her. As I said before, I’m conscious that I don’t want my research to be too heavily informed by her own opinions (which she articulates extremely well in a variety of outlets) – but the possibility of speaking with ‘your’ author is too good to pass up. I’m sure plenty of Shakespeare scholars have dreamt of a meeting.

Lewis on Lewis

‘my prose has turned out to be very revealing of my personal life, which has rather blown my cover. I suppose it’s all there in code in the poetry’

Ian Gregson, ‘‘‘Negotiations’’: An Interview with Gwyneth Lewis.’ Planet: The Welsh Internationalist, 173 (2005), pp. 50-56 (55).

The above quote is frustrating because I’m finding it difficult to get hold of the article. I keep finding it referenced elsewhere, for example in the extracts posted on Zoe Brigley Thompson’s Warwick blog. Sometimes I think researchers in other areas underestimate just how difficult it can be to get hold of writing about contemporary literature in magazines with small print runs and little or no online archiving.

The other thing I’m noticing is that Lewis has written a considerable amount on her own work, has been interviewed widely and that every critical review of her work quotes Lewis on Lewis. This is a bit of a double-edged sword; while her thoughts are totally enlightening, it can seem a bit of an easy way out to quote rather than analyze.

Inking Inspiration

Some Americans I know are a bit disgruntled by the stereotype of their populace as being totally and utterly crazy – but sometimes they just ask for it.

In the course of trawling through newspaper mentions of Gwyneth Lewis, I found an article from Wales on Sunday about an American who doesn’t really dispel the stereotype. Kasey, of Seattle, was thinking of travelling and looked Wales up on Google, found the image of the frontage of the Wales Millennium Centre which has Lewis’s poetry and was ‘blown away’. Instead of visiting the centre, Kasey got the poetry tattooed on her arm. I quote from Wales on Sunday:

“I just felt this huge connection with it […] I’ve never even been to Wales, let alone the Wales Millennium Centre, but there was something about it that just connected right with me.”

The tattoo took an hour and a half to complete, and was even more terrifying because Kasey “grew up knowing that my Uncle Junior had died from hepatitis after having a tattoo”.

Not strictly of any real use for my research – unless I decide to go down the whole ‘written on the body’ route. If you have a predilection for body art and are seeking ‘awen’ (ahem, inspiration) – see below.

WMC, Cardiff


‘O edrych yn ôl, rwy’n beio’r cyfiethu.’ (Gwyneth Lewis, ‘Cyfweliad â’r Bardd’)

‘Looking back, I blame translation’ (Gwyneth Lewis, ‘Interview with the Poet’ – trans. by Robert Minhinnick).

‘My work has been Minhinnicked’ – Gwyneth Lewis on Robert Minhinnick’s translations of her Welsh language poetry.

While I’m not looking at translations or Welsh language verse in my research project, it has been clear from the very conception of the project that translation and meaning are at the very heart of reading the work of bilingual writers like Lewis.

The Welsh above forms an epigraph to Robert Minhinnick’s ‘Introduction’ to The Adulterer’s Tongue: Six Welsh Poets (2003). I ignored it totally since as a non-Welsh speaker it meant nothing to me. Minhinnick only reveals what it means at the end of his ‘Introduction’, and only then did I look at it again.

Word Count Round Up (1)

0 / 20000

I am aware that this looks quite depressing at the moment. Further, this is my first extended research project (all my previous essays have been 5000 words or less).

Among my peers, we have come up with a number of ways to make ourselves feel less apprehensive about the impending 20,000 words. My favourite is the ‘it is just like 4 5000 word essays’ plea, but I am aware this is quite misleading since it is 4 5000 word essays on one author (in my case at least).

This being said, I’m feeling positive overall. I’ll just not look much at the progress meter until I’m at least 10,000 words in.

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