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A People's Poetry: Hen Benillion

Published by Seren

ISBN: 9781854111784

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Hen benillion (literally 'old verses') are a unique form of folk poetry in Britain. Dating from the sixteenth century and earlier these short verses, or chains of verses, were composed to be spoken or sung to a harp accompaniment. They have been performed at social gatherings in Wales for centuries, enriching the collective public memory with their mix of proverbs, saws, catchphrases and commentary on local events and characters.

They are, quite literally, a people's poetry, and regular reciters in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries would have repertoires in the hundreds. Written in free, as opposed to the traditional fixed metres, benillion were deemed for many years to be of transitory importance and it was only the eighteenth century Celtic antiquarian movement that preserved those which survive today.

This volume collects the translations and original Welsh texts of 315 of these verses, the result of fifty years work by Glyn Jones, the popular poet and novelist who wrote almost entirely in the English language. As a fine translator and an enthusiastic advocate for the interaction of Wales’s two literatures, A People's Poetry is a fitting tribute to his efforts in this area.

Glyn Jones (1905-1995) was a poet, short-storywriter and novelist. Born in Merthyr Tydfil into a Welsh-speaking family, his education was entirely in English and he became a teacher in Cardiff and Bridgend. In addition to three novels, three volumes of stories and a posthumous Collected Poems, he also published The Dragon Has Two Tongues, a seminal piece of autobiographical writing which included personal appreciations of writers in both the languages of Wales. This attempt to bridge the two literary cultures is continued in A People's Poetry.
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