NWR Issue r14

Travels through Time, Space & Place

You might think that poet Helen Mort took method acting techniques too far when she scaled the Alps dressed in a crinoline as research into Victorian mountaineer Jemima Morrell’s tour, for Mort’s collection, No Map Could Show Them. Suzannah Evans’ interview reveals more about Mort’s approach to female climbers, lyrical composition and storytelling through place.

In one of three travel columns, Timothy L Marsh examines how honest travel writing truly is, the industry’s cynical marketing of travel as an ‘imaginative antidote to feelings of domestic repression’, and proposes a manifesto for ethical travel writing with a baseline commitment to avoiding ‘text [that] will jeopardize our welfare’. This edition’s Indian travels include Natalie Holborow in Kolkata, where even the crows caw an octave ‘or two higher’ (although I am certainly playing here into the ‘exoticism’ trope Marsh warns about) and Eluned Gramich at Hyderabad Literary Festival, where all the old rules about translation and the mother tongue’s sanctity were rewritten: ‘Even among writers here in Wales, there's still a sense that there is “one” language – Welsh or English – that is your true writing language. By ascribing to this idea, we imbue the writer's words with an exaggerated sanctity and risk shutting down experimentation. What stayed with me at the end of the reading was this: that a person can write beautifully in a native language, a learned language, or a relearned language.’ Amen.

Welsh-language channel S4C now broadcasts drama with subtitles for repeats and iPlayer showings so there’s no excuse to ignore what’s going on in the Welsh-medium cultural scene. Catch your preview here of Siwan Jones’ ‘masterpiece’ of Russian storytelling and European visual minimalism, the crime drama 35 Diwrnod (35 Days), starting on Sunday. I missed the first two series so my St David's Day resolution is to tune into the channel’s Sunday 9pm quality drama slot.

Six book reviews complete our critical offering this time, and include Jack Pugh on Michael Oliver-Semenov’s collection The Elephant’s Foot, an ‘exercise in self-effacement’ and a successful lyrical mix of memoir, politics and – figuratively and literally – radiation. Dewi Huw Owen continues our theme of time travel in our audio review section which focuses on Welsh-language fiction. He reviews Aled Islwyn’s powerful novel Plant y Dyfroedd (The Children of the Waters) which deep maps one Cardiff suburb and the soul of headmaster Oswyn Morris. An historical ‘what if’ is at the heart of Saith Cam Iolo (Iolo’s Seven Steps) by Aled Evans, which considers the consequences had only Iolo Morganwg been reconciled to antiquarian Owain Myfyr, justifiably outraged by the former’s confabulations. Salutary post-truth reading. Dewi Huw Owen delivers his review in a powerfully performed narrative.

Our time machine shot too far south on its final journey. Aiming for the 60s Cavern, it landed round about now in Newport, Gwent, home of the No Frills Beatles and their manager, Byron Williams. Megan Elsey animated Dan Anthony’s comic story, ‘The Fake in the Back’: ‘“I’m sorry’, said Old Paul. Old Paul stopped and turned. ‘What for?’ said Old John. ‘Leaving me in the car park in Pontypool, hitting me with a bottle of cider or sleeping with my wife?”’


previous editorial: Review 13 Editorial
next editorial: Review 15 Editorial


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