Gwerful Mechain

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Gwerful Mechain
Years activefl. 1460-1502
Known forFemale Medieval Welch Poet

Gwerful Mechain (fl. 1460–1502), is the only female medieval Welsh poet from whom a substantial body of work is known to have survived. She lived in Mechain in Powys and is perhaps the most famous female Welsh-language poet after Ann Griffiths (1776–1805), who was also from northern Powys. Little is known of her life, but it is generally accepted that she was a descendant of a noble family from Llanfechain.[1] Her father was Hywel Fychan of Mechain in Powys,[2] her mother was named Gwenhwyfar, and she had at least four siblings (three brothers and a sister). She married John ap Llywelyn Fychan and had at least one child, a daughter named Mawd.[3]

Her work, composed in the traditional strict metres, including cywyddau and englynion, is often a celebration of religion or sex, sometimes within the same poem. Probably the most famous part of her work today is her erotic poetry, especially Cywydd y Cedor ("Poem to the Vagina"), a poem praising the vulva. It is a work in which she upbraids male poets for celebrating so many parts of a woman's body but ignoring "the middle." "Let songs about the quim circulate," she adjures her readers. "Lovely bush, God save it." She actively participated in the poetic culture of her day, and many of her surviving poems are examples of Ymrysonau,[1] or poetic or bardic contentions or debates, with contemporaries such as Dafydd Llwyd of Mathafarn, Ieuan Dyfi and Llywelyn ap Gutun.[4]


  1. ^ a b Koch, John T (2006). Celtic Culture: A Historic Encyclopedia Vol. 1. ABC-CLIO. p. 862.
  2. ^ Harries, Leslie. Dictionary of Welsh Biography. National Library of Wales.
  3. ^ Gramich, Katie (2018). The Works of Gwerful Mechain. Broadview Press. p. 7-8.
  4. ^ Howells, Nerys Ann (2001). Gwaith Gwerful Mechain ac Eraill. Canolfan Uwchefrydiau Cymreig a Cheltaidd Prifysgol Cymru.


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