Andreas Meirion Pennar (1944-2010) was a poet, academic, translator and Welsh language activist.

Meirion Pennar was the oldest of the five children of the writer and theologian, W.T. Pennar Davies and his German wife Rosmarie, née Wolff. He was born in Cardiff, but his family moved to Bangor in 1946 and then to Brecon in 1950. Under the guidance of his father, he began writing poetry (in English) for the Brecon Boys’ Grammar School eisteddfod. Then, as a sixth-former at Dynevor Grammar School, Swansea, he took to writing Welsh-language poetry.  

On leaving school, Pennar studied Welsh at Swansea University, before doing postgraduate work at Jesus College, Oxford. His PhD, awarded in 1975, was entitled Women in Medieval Welsh literature: an examination of some literary attitudes before 1500. He worked for the Welsh Books Council, before going back to academia to lecture in Welsh at University College Dublin. It was in Ireland that he met his future wife, Carmel Gahan. They had one son, Gwri. However, Pennar was plagued by depression, and eventually the marriage collapsed. 

In 1975, Pennar returned to Wales, to lecture in Welsh at St David’s University College. His particular interests were to do with medieval poetry and also the 19th century novel. He worked in Lampeter for nineteen years. However, he took early retirement due to ill health in 1994, moving to Swansea to care for his mother and younger brother, Geraint. 

As a writer, Pennar attempted to take Welsh poetry in new directions, without renouncing its illustrious past. His first book Syndod y Sêr, (The Stars’ Surprise, Llyfrau’r Dryw, 1971), is said to have hit the literary scene ‘like a trumpet blast during a chapel service.’ In its foreword, Pennar described some of the influences on him. He had been entranced by the poets of the modernist German Expressionismus group. Following them, he rejected artificial forms of poetry and wrote poems without pattern or punctuation so he could give unfettered voice to his thoughts and feelings.  He attempted to create like ‘a web from my own belly.’ Readers had to get used to his practice of arranging words in “clusters”, rather than in lines or stanzas.  

Pennar’s Pair Dadeni, (Cauldron of rebirth, Gwasg Gomer, 1977), consisted of one poem, 28 pages long. He deconstructed and reassembled the story of Efnisien and Bendigeidfran from the second branch of The Mabinogion. Along with the mythic resonance, he also said a great deal about modern Ireland. He published two more long poems, Saga (1972) and Y Gadwyn (1976). At the time of his death, another book, the bilingual, Welsh-English, Glesni was still unpublished. This included some poems written following the death of his father, as well as other pieces about his youth in Brecon.  

Pennar’s translations of old Welsh poetry were popular. He translated Taliesin poems, (Llanerch, 1988), the work of a sixth-century bard who sang the praises of a number of kings in Wales, northern England, and Scotland. He also published selected passages from the Black Book of Carmarthen (Llanerch, 1989)a manuscript compiled by an unnamed scribe in the mid-13th century, and containing a mixture of religious and secular poetry. Pennar’s selections included the dialogue between Myrddin (Merlin), and Taliesin, as well as the verses said to have been written by Merlin after the Battle of Arderydd. Pennar also published Peredur (Llanerch Press, 1991), one of the tales from the Mabinogion. At the time of his death, he was translating the Gododdin poem. 

Pennar was a committed Welsh nationalist, taking part in the campaigns of Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg for greater use of the Welsh language. He stood for Parliament, as the Plaid Cymru candidate for the Swansea West constituency, in the General Election of 1983. He also wrote for the Plaid Cymru publication, Y Ddraig Goch.  

Sadly Pennar died prematurely on 10 December 2010, following surgery. His funeral service was held at Ebenezer Newydd Chapel, Swansea.

Sources 

Gruffudd, H., (2012). PENNAR, ANDREAS MEIRION (1944-2010), poet and scholar. Dictionary of Welsh Biography. Retrieved 18 February 2021, from https://biography.wales/article/s8-PENN-MEI-1944 

Stephens, M. (2010, December 28). Meirion Pennar – viewspaper poet who challenged his readers to understand his cerebral verse. Independent. Retrieved 18 February 2021 from https://infoweb-newsbank-com.ezproxy.uwtsd.ac.uk/resources/doc/nb/news/13466A36B44F4410?p=UKNB