menna elfyn

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Prof Menna Elfyn BA, PhD

Creative Director, MA Creative Writing


Lecturer/tutor, Creative Writing

An award-winning writer of over 20 volumes of poetry, of stage plays, playscripts, libretti, travel essays, a journalist, filmmaker and tireless promoter of the Welsh language, Menna’s work has been studied as part of Welsh literature GCSE, ‘A’ Level, and degree courses at universities in Wales and at colleges in America.

She claims that ‘during the last 20 years or more as a writer I have tried to make Welsh as alive and vibrant as any other dominant language and in doing so, have tried to “sing the world alive”’. Her success with this aim led fellow poet Tony Conran to call her 'the first [Welsh language] poet in fifteen hundred years . . . to have her work known outside Wales' and to note that her ‘extraordinary range of subjects, breathtaking inventiveness and generosity of vision place Menna Elfyn, effortlessly, among Europe's leading poets.

Menna’s work has been translated into more than 22 different languages. One of her translators, Nigel Jenkins, describes her work as ‘poetry of daringly imaginative leaps, exploring both inner and outer landscapes, taking exuberant liberties with language, and presenting her translators with formidable challenges.’

‘Hers is a poetry of daring imaginative leaps, exploring both inner and outer landscapes, taking her exuberant liberties with language, and presenting her translators with formidable challenges. Her questing eye, affectionately critical of of many domestic presumptions, restlessly interrogates horizons that others have ignored or taken as read, from the mutating social landscapes of home to the concrete cliffs of Manhattan or the culinary byways of Vietnam. But wherever she finds herself - and as a reader in demand all over the world, she is the most travelled of all Welsh poets - Menna Elfyn never loses sight of Wales.’ (Professor M. Wynn Thomas )

Find out more about Menna at

Menna's is dedicated to the art of communication in all its modes, whether as poet, dramatist, librettist or journalist.  

This interest in communication means that she has developed close relationships with her many translators from India to Italy, China to Spain, often using English as a language of transmission rather than as the destination of the translated work. Being rooted in a bilingual Wales enables her to see and appreciate minority cultures elsewhere and she is a tireless campaigner for minorities and the excluded across the world. She claims that

“Literature travels and through translation, Welsh writing can be heard and appreciated in languages other than English which is perhaps the most common language of translation. I hope this award will offer some form of inspiration to other poets who are trying to write in a minority language,” 


'Liberation and enclosure are powerful themes in Menna Elfyn's work. She is a political poet, writing with passion of the Welsh language and identity for which she campaigns. But she makes her claims with realism … a restless, intensely responsive imagination'. Helen Dunmore, Observer

Menna he is the best known and most translated of all modern Welsh-language poets. Author of over twenty books of poetry including Aderyn Bach Mewn Llaw (1990), winner of a Welsh Arts Council Prize; the bilingual Eucalyptus: Detholiad o Gerddi / Selected Poems 1978-1994< from Gomer and her previous collection, Cell Angel (1996) from Bloodaxe, children’s novels and educational books, numerous stage, radio and television plays, she has also written libretti for US and UK composers.

In 1999, she co-wrote Garden of Light, a choral symphony for the New York Philharmonic Orchestra which was performed at the Lincoln Centre in New York. She received a Creative Arts Award in 2008 to write a book on ‘Sleep’.

In April 2010, Sunflowers in your Eyes, an anthology of four Zimbabwean women poets edited by Elfyn, appeared from Cinnamon Press. In addition to her work in Trinity Saint David, she is a Literary Fellow at Swansea University. In 2009, she was awarded the International Anima Istranza Foreign Prize for Poetry in Sardinia. Her latest collection, Murmur (Bloodaxe, 2012) was a Poetry Book Society Recommended Translation.

The specialist poetry publisher Bloodaxe list Menna Elfyn as amongst their most successful writers, claiming that ‘the extraordinary international range of her subjects, breathtaking inventiveness and generosity of vision place her among Europe’s leading poets’.

Menna Elfyn is a past Children's Laureate in Wales.

  • writing poetry,
  • writing drama and libretti  
  • journalism
  • editing
  • translation
  • teaching creative writing

As the most travelled of British Council writers,  Menna Elfyn has represented Britain throughout the world, from taking part in International literary festivals from Egypt to Mexico, to running writing workshops in Zimbabwe. 

In addition  she 

  • is a columnist with the Western Mail. 
  • has written numerous stage, radio and television plays  
  • wrote lyrics for the Millennium Centre opening Royal Gala concert
  • leader of many creative writing workshops at Ty Newydd, the National Writers' Centre for Wales
  • has lead creative writing workshop all over the world.

One of Menna's poems was selected to appear as one of the Poems on the Underground.

Select  publications (poetry)

2012   Murmur, Bloodaxe

2010   Sunflowers in your Eyes: four Zimbabwean women poets editor, Cinnamon Press 

2008    In Person, contributor, Bloodaxe

2007    Perffaith Nam/Perfect Blemish: New and Selected Poems 1995-2007, Bloodaxe

2007    Er Dy Fod, Gomer

2005    Perffaith Nam, Gomer

2003    The Bloodaxe Book of Modern Welsh Poetry: 20th-Century Welsh-Language Poetry in Translation, editor with John Rowlands, Bloodaxe

2003    The Adulterer's Tongue: Six Welsh Poets, contributor, Carcanet

2002    Rana Rebel, Gomer

2001    Cusan Dyn Dall/Blind Man's Kiss, with English translation, Bloodaxe

1999    Ffwl Yn Y Dwr: Casgliad O Gerddi l Bobl lfanc, children's poetry, Gomer

1996    Hands Off, Welsh Women's Aid

1996    Cell Angel, with English translation, Bloodaxe

1995    Eucalyptus: Detholiad O Gerddi/Selected Poems 1978-1994, Gomer

1993    Madfall Ar Y Mur, Gomer

1991    O'r lawn Ryw: Blodeugerdd O Farddoniaeth, editor, Honno

1990    Aderyn Bach Mewn Llaw: Cerddi 1976-1990, Gomer

1987    Glas-nos: Poems for Peace, editor with Nigel Jenkins, CND Cymru

1986    Mynd Lawr i'r Nefoedd, Gomer

1985    Hel Dail Gwyrdd, Gomer

1982    Tro'r Haul Arno, Gomer

1976    Mwyara: Cerddi, Gomer

Menna is a significant cultural coordinator, in 2014 alone, she 

  • was a key organiser of the ‘Welsh Mam Day', Cwmdonkin Park, Swansea
  • host /organiser of the In augural Dylan Thomas International Summer School
  • organised a For Nigel 1949-2014, Hay Festival
  • arranged a weekend celebration of Welsh language writing at the Dylan Thomas Centre
  • organised a commemoration evening for Nigel Jenkins 1949-2014  at the Dylan Thomas Centre
  • was commissioned to read her work as the the baton arrived in Laugharne on its way to Glasgow
  • was chosen to read at ‘Dylan’s Centenary Supper' in London
  • was an invited panel guest at the Stanza International Poetry Festival, St Andrews, Scotland
  • was Poet –in- Residence, National Eisteddfod