Menna Elfyn

Menna Elfyn is an award-winning poet and playwright. She has published fourteen collections of poetry, children’s novels, and libretti for UK and US composers as well as plays for television and radio. Murmur (Bloodaxe, 2012) was selected as a PBS Recommended Translation. Her work has been translated into eighteen languages and her latest collection Bondo (Bloodaxe) was published in 2017. Her biography of the Welsh poet Eluned Phillips was published by Gomer, and the English translation Absolute Optimist appeared with Honno in 2018. Cennad (Barddas), a literary memoir, was published in March 2018. She is a professor of poetry, the president of Wales PEN Cymru and has been a columnist with the national newspaper of Wales since 1994.

Photo: Gareth Richards


Poetry Centre Stage »

Ease into the weekend with a double bill of poetry
20:00 Reading – Jacqueline Saphra
21:00 Reading – Menna Elfyn​​​​​​​

Fri 8 March | 20:00 - 22:00 | £9.75/£8.00 | The Byre Theatre, Abbey Street, Auditorium

Found In Translation »

Rebecca DeWald, George Mario Angel Quintero and Menna Elfyn explore the fluidity of translation                                               

Sat 9 March | 15:30 - 16:30 | £4.50/£3.50 | The Byre Theatre, Abbey Street, Studio Theatre

Past & Present »

Menna Elfyn on Eluned Phillips, Emma Jones on Christina Rossetti

Fri 8 March | 14:15 - 15:15 | £4.50/£3.50 | The Town Hall, Queens Gardens, Council Chamber



So many of us have stood up for the marginalized, but never expected to be here ourselves
– Barbara Kingsolver

What I learned early on : bach = small is  small, smaller, smallest;
but who is the smallest of us all?
We thought it was us, the Welsh
‘appendage’, some relic or other
of England – sometimes  quipped  as Great Britain,
although miniscule on any map.

Welsh is the only language you learn
to be able to  talk  to fewer people,
said one spin doctor or the  journalist:
‘this useless language’, though she could not sound
even a  syllable from her small world.
Bigger, bigger, bigger is the curse that we hear.

These days, the small and smaller
are afoot, and we are with them
the smallest ones, dregs
whose hiraeth for hearth
wants a roof, eaves even, and blessings;
who crave, though they be small,
a feast, a dwelling, a plenitude ;
and we, like them, shy away
from those who sense the leaves on our lips.

After all, we Welsh were called strangers
once by our next door neighbours,
so we understand those on the move,
mumbling without the warmth of their mother tongue;
glasswort  on a faraway beach
every shard hitting rock
before it falls in the cauldron of tides.

Until the great power reconfigure their dictionaries:
as the diminiutive people:
small, small, the smallest nebbish:

a nobody, nebach—no lineage,
 smaller than small
poor thing, say some as  they bid  adieu
to the  whisper of the tiniest  tribes and nations.

Before slipping  back to their huge world,
 larger than ever,ever, ever.


(i’r lleiafrifoedd sydd ar wasgar)

Dysgu rhedeg yr yrfa: bach, lleied, llai, lleiaf –
ond pwy yw’r lleiaf ohonom?
Credom unwaith mai ni’r Cymry
oedd y rheiny – atodiad sy’n hen nodiant
i Loegr a fyn weithiau ei bod hi’n Brydain Fawr,
er mai bechan bach yw ar fap.
Why learn Welsh to speak
to fewer people
, meddai un gŵr doeth
unwaith, neu’r gohebydd tafodrydd :
this useless language heb allu sill
na stomp ohoni.  Mor fach eu byd.
Mwy, mwy, mwy, yw’r clwy sy’n ein clyw.

Ond heddiw, mae’r llai a’r lleiaf
ar wasgar, ac un ydym â hwy,
a’r anfri llai-lleied arnynt hwythau,
y ‘lleiaf rai’,  ‘ gwehilion’
sy’n mynnu – melltith arnynt –
gael to, a bondo a’n bendith;
sy’n crefu, er mor fychain ydynt,
ffest, a lluest a llewyrch;
ac un ydym ninnau, y lleiaf rai
ar wasgar yn ein bro yn llechu
rhag  y sawl  synhwyra’r  dail ar ein lleferydd.

Wedi’r cyfan, enwyd ni’r Cymry
yn ddieithriaid, ac onid dyna paham
y deallwn y lleilai sy ar daith,
yn mwmian heb eu mamiaith;
gwydrlys o bobl ar draethell bell
pob telcyn wedi’i hyrddio ar graig
cyn disgyn i’r llanw mawr – mwy, mwy, mwy.

Nes  y myn  y grymoedd mawr, mwy ,mwyaf
ailenwi’r pobloedd bychan yn fachigol:
 y lleied, llai, lleiaf  yn troi’n nebach.

nebach* yw’r neb – heb ach,
nebach  llai na lleied,
druan bach, medd  rhai wrth ganu’n
iach i’r llipryn lleiaf oll.

Cyn troi yn ôl at eu byd mawr –
mwy, mwy, mwy –
Os oes mwy.


Menna Elfyn

From Bondo (Bloodaxe Books, 2017)