A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Annest Gwilym

with Annest Gwilym:

Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?

Annest: I started writing as a teenager, mainly keeping diaries and writing poetry. My first poem to be published was at age 15, in a local magazine, one of only two chosen from my school. My first influences were Ted Hughes, Seamus Heaney, R.S. Thomas and the Welsh poets R. Williams Parry and Hedd Wyn. I was also a big fan of the Romantics, especially Keats and Wordsworth.

Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?

Annest: A difficult question, since there are so many! But I would have to include Helen Dunmore, Linda France, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton and Mary Oliver.

Q3: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing? Have any travels away from home influence your work/describe?

Annest:

I am originally from the Llŷn peninsula, in NW Wales, in the United Kingdom. However, because of my father’s job, we moved house a lot, mainly across North Wales. We also lived in the Midlands city of Worcester for around five years. I think the experience of always being the ‘new girl’ at school, with a different accent, often bullied because of this, created a sense of alienation in me that I still carry today. I lived in Italy for a year (in Florence) – half of my degree was in Italian. My exposure to Italian – language, literature and culture have also influenced my writing.

Q4: What do you consider the most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far?

Annest: Probably my book What the Owl Taught Me. Loosely based on a bestiary, I used it to validate beasts that are commonly deemed pests, because of our human-centric view of the world, and to show that they also have intricate, valuable lives, and deserve to live. It also includes a few poems that share concerns about loss of species due to negative human interaction, and environmental issues. “What The Owl Taught Me” by Annest Gwilym a poetry book review by Mashaal Sajid

Q5: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a poet/writer?

Annest: When I began to enjoy poetry as a teenager, I started dabbling, although these early attempts were mainly about teenage angst!

Q6: Favorite activities to relax?

Annest: When not writing, I am usually reading, walking, or making jewellery. I have a small jewellery shop on Etsy called NineMusesJewellery

Q7: Any recent or forthcoming projects you’d like to promote?

Annest: Just a link to my collection What the Owl Taught Me. My first book – Surfacing – can also be found there.

https://sites.google.com/a/lapwingpublications.com/lapwing-store/home Lapwing Publications

Q8: What is one of your favourite lines from a poem/writing of yours or others?

Annest:

‘Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.’

Mary Oliver, Wild Geese.

Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?

Annest: Links below

Book Review: “Surfacing” by Annest Gwilym (review by Mashaal Sajid)

2 poems by Annest Gwilym : Seasons in the Sun & Sometimes at Twilight…

Poem by Annest Gwilym “Last Night…”

New Poetry by Annest Gwilym : “Insomniac” & “The Word Collector”

Wolfpack Contributor Bio: Annest Gwilym

Poetry by Annest Gwilym: Red on Red

https://www.firstwriter.com/competitions/poetry_competition/winners/15thpoetry.shtml

“What The Owl Taught Me” by Annest Gwilym a poetry book review by Mashaal Sajid

What the Owl Taught Me by Annest Gwilym | North of Oxford
What The Owl Taught Me

“What the owl taught me” is Annest Gwilym’s first full-length Poetry collection published by Lapwing Publications in 2020. Having read Annest’s debut poetry chapbook “Surfacing”, I looked forward to delve into this collection and my anticipation was rewarded. A bestiary of sorts,  “what the owl taught me” is a perfect read for anyone who approaches themes of nature and wildlife with adoration and cautious reverence. 

Annest depicts the spirit of living creatures from mythological birds, sea urchin and moths to endangered critters in these 40 Poems. The collection is hallmarked with quaint verses giving human characteristics to animals like: “scuffle for a crumb on the street, sinewy legs dance and pounce”, “upright head, a Roman nose”, “shimmied and played chase with the ladies”, “underwater acrobats”, “as your mocking laughter ripples”, “he keeps vigil, forages, shovels snow”, and “in his robe of sun he cartwheels”.

Perhaps due to my biased fascination with moths, but mostly because of these opening lines “I rode through the liquid night, as a melon-slice moon crested a bank of cloud”, Last Night I Became An Emperor Moth is my favourite poem in this collection. It takes you on a first person view of a moth’s night journey, flying over moor and sea, to end in a desire filled moment with the anticipation of some obscure ferine mating ritual: “There to wait for my lover; my musk strong, / it will draw him from miles. He will come, / wings taut with blood. Antennae fresh as ferns.”

Some poems are heavy with environmentalist concern and themes of extinction. Golden child is a concrete poem about the endangered Raja Undulate sting ray, the speaker describes the beauty of the creature calling her ‘beauty queen of rays’, the voice breaks to distressed prayer towards the end: “Golden child, I pray you don’t go the way of the golden toad”. “The Last Woolly Mammoth” paints a macabre and mournful picture of the extinction of the last Woolly mammoths on Wrangel Island. Tinted with grief and loss, it features a mother child duo, the child after witnessing his mother’s death surrenders to loneliness and demise. The poem holds bitter lessons about climate crisis and environmentally harmful practices : “People have taken bones and tusks, of his dead tribe, wear his family’s coats on their backs.”

What The Owl Taught Me contains many brilliant Poems, among these, the ones that stood out to me the most are: “Last Night I Became An Emperor Moth”, “Domesticated”, “Barn Owl”, “The Nightmare Bird”, “The Moon Hedgehog”, and “Wasp’s Nest”. Their language is fresh and alive with poignant oft eerie imagery like “The ugly planet hangs like a mutilated moon”, “he fled through looms of leaves, fingered by spiders”, “moon-bitten, storm struck eater of stars, and dreams, it’s scream strangles the night “, “silken killer moves like water”, and “when I see you I could burst into flower”

What the owl taught me is a stirring read that captures your attention throughout. The collection is a testimony to Annest’s poetic prowess. Anyone with an interest in bestiaries, a love for wildlife and their share of environmentalist concerns would thoroughly enjoy this book.

 Wolfpack Contributor Bio: Annest Gwilym

Wolfpack Contributor Bio: Mashaal Sajid

Book Review: “Surfacing” by Annest Gwilym  (review by Mashaal Sajid)

Book Review: “Surfacing” by Annest Gwilym (review by Mashaal Sajid)

Poetry Pamphlet Review: Surfacing by Annest Gwilym | Sammi Loves Books
Surfacing by Annest Gwilym

A dauntless and personal debut poetry collection by Annest Gwilym. Surfacing was published in 2018 by Lapwing Publications. Annest is based in North Wales, near Snowdonia National Park. Her writing has been widely published in literary journals and anthologies. She has been placed in competitions, winning one in recent years and she was the editor of the former webzine Nine Muses Poetry.

Surfacing is a collection of poems all unified by themes dealing with mental illness, loneliness and anguish. One distinguishing feature of this collection is the speaker’s tenacity and spirit and how their vulnerability allows us to feel for and have a closer look into the internal world of someone struggling with mental illness. 

The book cover is symbolic of light at the end of the tunnel or in this case a glimmer at the end of a passage under a dark canopied forest. The 19 poems all with unique poignant titles are arranged into three parts, each denoting a shift in the atmosphere which is most evident in ‘Bright little pill’ and ‘Beach pottery mosaic’. The language is at times abrupt,flowing with underwater references and seascapes at other times like “The sea outside your house slyly slides past mine”, “My heart beats sea-surged”, and “even my broken glass can become sea treasure”. 

Evocative imagery paired with visuals of animals and the natural world world like “Before the Storm irises Black Star lilies”, “In a forest full of hemlock and wolfsbane”, “a sweet soil shelter” transports you to a welsh landscape and reminded me of Arthur Rackham’s illustrations. The first part heavy with imagery that invokes loneliness, desolation and being distant from the world, paired with everyday visuals like “percussion of washing machine”, “blinds are drawn day doesn’t break there”, “the cutlery is mismatched”, “slow as a Sunday afternoon” becomes haunting. 

The poems in the second part deal with fear, paranoia, treatment and drowsy liminal hospital rooms. The poem ‘Last night’ echoes Lady Lazarus. This part has a very dream heavy and sleep induced atmosphere, Some imagery that really stood out is “If they shut me in an attic I could fly out on singed wings”, “whaled woman lies beached drowning lungs broadcast”, “people move like smoke”.


In the third part of the collection the language becomes more grounded in reality and the atmosphere becomes warmer, the visuals calm and solitary but familiar as we move towards the end the tone shifts to one of hope. “The house curls in on itself”, “festive glow of pub and bistro”, “the steaming parcel a warm hand in mine”, “the sun’s yolk descends behind the island where I picked wild strawberries” are some examples. 

Life Underwater is my favorite Poem in Surfacing, it has a beautiful form and makes brilliant use of references and imagery. “Like Sisyphus I roll each jellied day one after the other, Without Orpheus to sing me back” this line leaves me astounded every time. 
Surfacing takes you on an intense reflective and emotive journey which ends for the reader in a warm and hopeful way.


Wolfpack Contributor Bio: Annest Gwilym


Wolfpack Contributor Bio: Mashaal Sajid







2 poems by Annest Gwilym : Seasons in the Sun & Sometimes at Twilight…

silhouette photography of trees
Seasons in the Sun

She lived in a net-curtained house
with anaemic pot plants and china figurines
of big-eyed animals and ladies in long dresses.
There was always the smell 
of stale sponge cake and a scattering
of doilies, a brown flowered carpet,
drab furniture with crochet antimacassars.

She only spoke the island Welsh,
always with a twinkle in her eye.
We were no angels: girls that slipped 
melting ice lollies through the dark mouths 
of post boxes, stuck out our tongues
at strangers, danced the can-can
in her bloomers and best chapel hat
rummaged from her bedroom
while she spoke to our mother.

In a hot summer that reverberated to the sound
of roller skates tearing up concrete 
she took us in her shiny black Morris Minor, 
speeding past farms and fields of potatoes,
to the candy floss paradise of Benllech 
with its wide apron of sand and donkeys.
Me in my beloved yellow towelling hot pants, 
while Seasons in the Sun played 
from everyone’s open door.

Sometimes at Twilight . . .

I open my back door 
to the high clean ozone of the tide, 
when the chill small evening 
clinks with sounds of crockery 
from the beach-side bistro
and wine-hazed banter.

And I’m glad of cormorants 
that dry their wings
on the jetty’s end, 
sloe-dark eyes of a surfacing seal, 
plants that grow 
despite the wind’s salt charge.

Glad that in spite of poverty 
there are watery days 
of soft rain and poetry,
the past that is always present 
beneath the surface of earth and our skin,
the lost graves of my peasant ancestors.

Glad of the balm this place brings
to a frightened rescue dog 
who now calls it home, 
for being able to stand on my step at night, 
sniff the air like a fox,
for what the wind brings.

inspired by Glad of these times by Helen Dunmore

Wolfpack Contributor Bio: Annest Gwilym

Poem by Annest Gwilym “Last Night…”

Last Night…

I dreamed my soul rose 
from my body whitely

like a sea mist coming in 
from the west, its slow coolness, 

diaphanous dampness,
hovering over the lumpen land.

I left behind this place of bones,
numb flesh silent as snow,

the past that is always present
in heavy muscles and sinew

with their scent of damp earth,
pallid roots and annelids.

I fled from stars that implode 
behind the eyes, loudness of blood 

crashing, roaring in ears
into the softness of ozone.

I learned to wear the cold like a shawl –
cold, like death, can be an ally. 




Wolfpack Contributor Bio: Annest Gwilym

Poetry by Annest Gwilym: Red on Red