It’s that time of year again! With Christmas nearing and 2022 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 2022.
We’ve been treated to a year full of delightful and heart-wrenching collections from all across Wales, and naming our choices has been particularly tough for our contributors. That said, we take great pleasure in revealing the best Welsh poetry releases of 2022 to tide you over into the new year.
Homelands is Eric Ngalle Charles’ compellingly honest debut poetry collection that centres around his experiences in his native country of Cameroon and the journey it took to make it to his joyously self-declared homeland of Wales. In his review Ant Heald described Charles’ as a ‘poetic archaeologist, uncovering the fragmented bones of memory and history, piecing them together, and clothing them in the flesh of transitory experience, lived and processed in a range of places and languages.’ Gloriously abundant in both emotion and subject, Charles guides the reader through his past and present where much-needed poems of tenderness and wit appear out of the dark to delight.
You can read Ant Heald’s review of Eric Ngalle Charles’ Homelands here.
The undeniably intimate collection Pearl & Bone by Mari Ellis Dunning ruminates upon the intricacies of motherhood and the unwavering strength it takes to be one. Half-poised between vulnerability and anger, Dunning presents mothers through her own experiences but also draws upon the likes of Zelda Fitzgerald, Christina Keeler, and Mary Magdalene. Isabel Roach rightfully declares in her review earlier this year that ‘Pearl & Bone’ ‘reinterpret[s] the struggles of the past for a turbulent present; there is no doubt that her work will chart the shape of the future, too.’
You can read Isobel Roach’s review of Maris Ellis Dunning’s Pearl & Bone here.
Edited by Sian Northey and Ness Owen, A470: Poems for the Road is a bilingual collection from Welsh poets, composed as a response to the A470 that runs from North Wales to South. Gary Raymond described the anthology as ‘well-sequenced, and it works to be read cover-to-cover, which is rarely a must with books like this.’ All the poems are translated into both Welsh and English, celebrating not only the literary talent that Wales has on offer but the beauty of the languages that are spoken there.
You can read Gary Raymond’s review of A470: Poems for the Road here.
Emily Vanderploeg’s first full-length collection is an elegantly fashioned contemplation upon language, identity, and familial history. A collection mainly consisting of lyric-poems, Vanderploeg’s travels from childhood to strange cities and stranger cities still is unexpectedly sharp in their reflections. As Isobel Roach states in her review Strange Animals ‘offers its readers a glimpse of a resilient world in bloom.’
You can read Isobel Roach’s review of Emily Vanderlpoeg’s Strange Animals here.
Written in collaboration with poets (Phil Cope, Viviana Fiorentino, Csilla Toldy and Glen Wilson), Angela Graham’s Sanctuary: There Must Be Somewhere is an innovative collection that Graham herself states ‘moves from war, to migration, to the alienation imposed by illness (a kind of expulsion from the sanctuary of Eden), to the numinosity of the natural world, to the pandemic, and ends with an assertion that sanctuary is something we can be.’
Read Angela Graham’s introduction to Sanctuary: There Must Be Somewhere here.
Striking a Match in a Storm: New and Collected Poems – Andrew McNeillie (Carcanet Press)
Bringing back his most impactful poems along with a host of new wonders, Andrew McNeillie’s Striking a Match in a Storm captures evocative and timely observations of mankind and their impact upon natural landscapes. Brilliantly demonstrating his unyielding ecstasy, McNeillie’s costal poems are unmatched in their devotion to the coastal communities and the world beyond them.
In the latest collection of work from esteemed Welsh poet Paul Henry, lyricism and song are everything. As If To Sing explores the human condition through the language of music across three distinct sections, and does so with a mastery of poetics. Henry offers a meaningful insight into what it means to be a father, to be a poet, and a human being.
Read Isobel Roach’s review of As If To Sing here.
Taylor Edmond’s fierce debut pamphlet Back Teeth explores Edmond’s experiences of the world around her for the first time as a young woman. Unafraid to question the world around her, Edmond’s poems boldly confront the struggle from girl to womanhood with delightfully grotesque language and imagination that haunts the reader with her unexpected perspective.
Watch Taylor Edmonds poetry film We Echo from our Video of the Week here.