Hanan Issa becomes first Muslim named as National Poet of Wales

The Welsh-Iraqi artist will represent the country's diverse cultures and languages

Hanan Issa will act as an ambassador for the people of Wales as part of her new role. Photo: Camera Sioned / Literature Wales
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Wales has named Hanan Issa as its fifth national poet, making her the first Muslim to hold the title.

The Welsh-Iraqi poet, filmmaker and artist will serve a three-year term, representing the country’s diverse cultures and languages and acting as an ambassador for the people of Wales.

Her recent works include her poetry collection My Body Can House Two Hearts, published in 2019, and her contributions to Welsh (Plural): Essays on the Future of Wales and The Mab.

Issa grew up in Cardiff surrounded by different languages, including Arabic, which was spoken by her Iraqi parents. She described the role as an “incredibly positive step” and said it was “exciting to think that Wales is taking the lead on this aspect of representation”.

“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,” she said.

“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.”

Ashok Ahir, who led the selection panel for the National Poet of Wales, said: “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.”

Issa said she hopes that her appointment will allow women from all walks of life, but especially Muslim women, to see her success and think “that’s a thing that’s achievable for me”.

Updated: July 08, 2022, 12:15 PM