William Welstead
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‘Green Desert’ or ‘Living Landscape’
Sheep and people in the Welsh uplands
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Chapter 5 covers the Welsh mountains from Snowdon to the Brecon Beacons. The agro-pastoral society of this region is central to the concept of Welsh identity and language. The poets discussed in this chapter write in English, but this dual heritage is always present. The Welsh poet Harri Webb chose the title The Green Desert for his 1969 collection of poems. The idea that the Cambrian Mountains are seen as some sort of desert has been cited by environmentalists as an example of the damage done to the landscape by sheep. This chapter argues for a more nuanced reading of Webb’s designation, linked as it is to the concept of ‘terra incognita’. It is argued that a postcolonial reading would be more appropriate. It will take note of readings of Webb’s poetry by Morris (1993), Jarvis (2008) and Bohata (2004), but with particular reference to how sheep farming is now under pressure. Welsh Mountain sheep and closely related mountain breeds are the mainstay of the Welsh-speaking hill farmers in Snowdonia and the northern Cambrian Mountains. Authors include Ffion Jones (2014) and poets Owen Sheers (2000), Christopher Meredith (2011), Gillian Clarke (1997) and Christine Evans (2006).

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Writing on sheep

Ecology, the animal turn and sheep in poetry


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