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Waldo Williams: Best work of iconic Welsh poet published in English

Y Lolfa have just released an English language translation of the best work of renowned Welsh poet, Waldo Williams.The Peacemakers comprises the original poems by Williams along with parallel translations into English by esteemed poet and translator Tony Conran, who originally translated them in the 1990s.

Waldo Williams (1904–1971) was a folk poet who celebrated the way of life and people of his local area, but also wrote on the themes of pacifism, faith, the brotherhood of humankind, belonging and understanding one another. Some of his most important poems are ‘Mewn dau gae’ (1956), ‘Cofio’ (1931), ‘Y Tangnefeddwyr’ (1941), ‘Preseli’ (1946), and ‘Pa beth yw dyn?’ (1952) – all included in this selection. Since his death, he has attracted more attention than any other Welsh-language poet.

Jim Perrin has said of Waldo Williams, ‘At his outstanding best, his verse has a mystical intensity and a calm beauty of vision that are powerfully sustaining and memorable’. For John Osmond, ‘Even read in translation – and Waldo has been fortunate in his translators – his poetry is of the highest quality in terms of intelligence, love, and above all a numinous awareness.’

Tony Conran (1931–2013) was a tutor in English at Bangor University, with a special interest in poetry, both Welsh and English. He produced the celebrated collection of translations of Welsh-language poetry, The Penguin Book of Welsh Verse – republished in 1982 by Poetry Wales Press with an extensive and influential introductory essay by Conran. He was also a literary critic, with Meic Stephens arguing that his articles in The Anglo-Welsh Review in the late 1950s were the first stirrings of a critical reassessment which led to ‘the second flowering’ of Anglo-Welsh poetry in the Sixties. As well as translating Welsh-language poetry into English, Conran was a poet in his own right, publishing more than a dozen collections of his own work.

On behalf of Tony’s family, widow, Lesley, said of the new edition:

‘The Peacemakers has always been a favourite volume among his translations and we are delighted that Y Lolfa have brought it back into print. In today’s international climate, with conflict and persecution in so many areas of the world, the message of peace, compassion and respect for cultural identity in the poetry of Waldo Williams is as relevant and timeless as ever. Tony worked hard to mirror the beauty of the original language and he and we are proud of the result.’

The Peacemakers by Waldo Williams (translated by Tony Conran) is available now (£9.99, Y Lolfa).