Hanan Issa announced as the new National Poet of Wales

Hanan Issa, a poet whose “words are like ribbons weaving languages and cultures together" has today been named as the new National Poet of Wales. The post is a 3-year term, running until 2025. Hanan succeeds Ifor ap Glyn, who completes his tenure this summer. The news was announced on Front Row, BBC Radio 4.


The National Poet of Wales represents and celebrates writing from Wales both at home and abroad. The project, which is run by Literature Wales, the national company for the development of literature, takes poetry to new audiences and encourages others to use their creative voice to inspire positive change.


Established in 2005, the National Poet of Wales scheme has become a staple in the literary landscape of Wales. Representing the diverse cultures and languages of Wales, the National Poet is an ambassador for the people of Wales, advocating for the right to be creative and spreading the message that literature belongs to everyone. The poet will give a poetic platform to some of the most important issues of our time, including the climate emergency, representation and equality, and health and well-being.


Hanan is a Welsh-Iraqi poet, filmmaker, and artist. Her publications include her poetry collection My Body Can House Two Hearts and Welsh (Plural): Essays on the Future of Wales. Her winning monologue With Her Back Straight was performed at the Bush Theatre as part of the Hijabi Monologues project. She was also part of the writers’ room for Channel 4’s ground-breaking series We Are Lady Parts alongside its award-winning creator, Nida Manzoor. Hanan is co-founder of the Where I’m Coming From open mic series. She was the recipient of the 2020 Ffilm Cymru/ BBC Wales commission for her short film The Golden Apple as well as a recipient of Literature Wales’ Representing Wales Award in 2021. 


Hanan Issa said: “Poetry exists in the bones of this country. I want people to recognise Wales as a country bursting with creativity: a land of poets and singers with so much to offer the arts. I’d like to continue the great work of my predecessors in promoting Wales, Welshness, and the Welsh language outside of its borders. More than anything, I want to capture the interest and inspiration of the public to see themselves in Welsh poetry and encourage a much more open sense of what Welshness is.”


Hanan will be Wales’ fifth National Poet, following in the footsteps of Ifor ap Glyn, Gillian Clarke, Gwyn Thomas and Gwyneth Lewis. This time around, the appointment process for the National Poet of Wales began with a public call for nominations. The decision was then handed over to a selection panel who interviewed a shortlist. The panellists included Natalie Jerome, literary agent and Deputy Chair of Literature Wales; former Bardd Plant Cymru (Welsh-language Children’s Poet Laureate) and author Casia Wiliam; Agent for Change at the Arts Council of Wales, Andrew Ogun; and Ashok Ahir, Director of Communications and President of the Court and Chair of the Board of the National Eisteddfod of Wales.


On behalf of the panel, Ashok Ahir said: "The panel had to choose between a varied range of poetic styles and voices, and it was excellent to see the high level of talent working in Wales today.

This is a hugely exciting appointment. Hanan's is a cross-community voice that speaks to every part of the country. She will be a great ambassador for a culturally diverse and outward looking nation."


Panellist Casia Wiliam said: “This is a poet who writes widely, her words are like ribbons weaving languages​​and cultures together, she broadens the mind and sharpens the eyes. If you’re not already familiar with her work, go and look for it immediately. I can't wait to see what Hanan will achieve in the role."


Joint Interim CEO of Literature Wales, Claire Furlong said: “In Wales, our passion for poetry is proudly sung in our national anthem, “Gwlad beirdd a chantorion”. At a time of increasing division and global insecurity, poetry can connect us to each other and help us make sense of the world. It can teach us how to imagine and respect the experiences of others and communicate complex ideas in a way that’s plain and relatable to our everyday lives.

Each National Poet makes the role their own. We’ve enjoyed following Hanan’s fantastic and varied career over the years, and I can’t wait to see how Hanan will reflect and contribute to our national conversation during her time as our National Poet.”


Dawn Bowden MS, Deputy Minister for Arts and Sport, and Chief Whip said: “I am delighted to welcome Hanan Issa to the role of National Poet of Wales. She will act as a cultural ambassador for Wales, and I look forward to hearing her verse and how she responds to events during her tenure.

I would also like to take the opportunity to pay tribute to Ifor ap Glyn for his time in the role. During his six years in post his poetry has appeared across the globe, and he has been commissioned to write about subjects as diverse as the 50th Anniversary of Aberfan, UNESCO Year of Indigenous Languages 2019 and twenty years of devolution in Wales.”


Hanan’s National Poet of Wales pictures were taken at The Arab Room in Cardiff Castle. Shot by Camera Sioned, Hanan wears a floral cape created by Flowers by Grace and Wenvoe Flower Farm.

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