It’s that time of year again! With Christmas nearing and 2023 drawing to a close, we take a look back at some of the best art and cultural offerings to come out of Wales this year. Today, we’re naming our favourite Welsh poetry collections and anthologies from 2023.
With the fantastic Welsh poetry releases of 2022, 2023 left us eager for more incredible Welsh poetry – and it has not disappointed. With new poetry on neurodiversity, leukemia, sexism and even a new poetry collection aimed at young children! We now take great pleasure in revealing the best Welsh poetry releases of 2023 to tide you over, and eagerly anticipate what 2024 will bring.
Octopus Mind by Rachel Carney
Octopus Mind explores the intricacies of neurodiversity, perception and the human mind. These poems articulate the desire to understand and be understood by oneself and others in a complex world 0 observing nuances of creativity, art, relationships and self-expression through the lens of neurodiversity.
Rebel Blood Cells by Jamie Woods
Poet (and erstwhile Wales Arts Review contributor) Jamie Woods charts his own experiences of being diagnosed with leukaemia in this powerful sequence of poems that seeks to unearth the nuances of his navigating through diagnosis and treatment. You can read more about Jamie’s process in writing the collection here.
Blood Feather by Patrick McGuinness
Republic by Nerys Williams
Nostalgic and evocative, this collection of prose poems tell the story of a young woman growing up in west Wales during the 1980s and 1990s. Williams has spoken previously of her desire to create an “anti-memoir”, writing which maintains distance between itself and the material it covers, Republic achieves that. An extraordinary collection that pitches the personal against the political and lets neither off the hook.
The Little Hours: New and Selected Poems by Hilary Llewellyn-Williams
The Little Hours is Hilary Llewellyn-Williams’ return to poetry after an almost twenty-year break following her last collection, Greenland. The new collection features a selection of poems from her previous works alongside several new additions. While the poems simultaneously explore the vast landscapes of the natural world and the intricacies of a personal and internal world, they all share Llewellyn-Williams’ signature descriptive ease and graceful cadence.
Are You Judging Me Yet by Kim Moore
Following the success of her award-winning 2021 publication All the Men I Never Married, Kim Moore returns with another beautifully composed collection of poetry and other works. Just in time for International Women’s Day, Are You Judging Me Yet?: Poetry and Everyday Sexism tackles the heavy issues of domestic violence and sexism that women still face within modern society. In conversation with her previous collection, Moore’s new, thought-provoking poetry offers a glimpse into her personal experience with these hard-hitting issues, while highlighting normalised acts of sexism that, all too often, seem to go under the radar within our society.
Doughnuts, Thieves and Chimpanzees by Alex Wharton
A new book from the Children’s Laureate Wales, Alex Wharton aims to encourage a new generation of budding poets and lyricists. Firefly Press and Children’s Laureate Alex Wharton has created Doughnuts, Thieves and Chimpanzees – an innovative poetry ‘how to’ collection aimed at school pupils. It is packed full of fun poems, limericks, haiku, song and rap from Alex Wharton, all illustrated by Rhiannon Smith.
I Think We’re Alone Now by Abigail Parry
I Think We’re Alone Now is Parry’s second collection. Only published in November, it has been shortlisted for the UK’s most prestigious poetry award – the TS Eliot Prize. Parry herself defines the book as running of failure – as her intention was for it to be about intimacy. Instead, the poems range from pop music, to etymology, surveillance equipment to cervical examination and church articles – but yet, intimacy is found in the reading experience and each poem’s genuine honesty.
Hymnal by Julia Bell
Hymnal offers a series of snapshots about religion and sexuality. In verse because it’s how Bell remembers: snapshots in words strung along a line, which somehow constitute a life. Snapshots of another time from now, but from a time which tells us about how Bell got here. Not the whole story, but her story. Of an English family on a mission from God, of signs and wonders in the Welsh countryside, of difference, and of faith and its loss.
Hollywood or Home by Kathryn Gray
A poetry collection with as much ruthless glamour as any Old Hollywood movie. The worldly-wise poems in Hollywood or Home explore celebrity culture in a mode that is both seriously playful and playfully serious. Here, melancholy and humour, irony and sincerity can be often found in the same poem, creating a rich experience for the film buff or fan of celebrity culture, as the book is full of easter eggs and movie references.
The Turpentine Tree by Lynne Hjelmgaard
The Turpentine Tree sets out portraits of family, friends and relationships – of Hjelmgaard’s uprooted life, including a life at sea, the subsequent displacement, widowhood and search for connections. Often the remembrances in poems are sweet-bitter, recalling friends and lovers lost, including the writer’s late partner Dannie Abse.