NWR Issue 12

Editor's endnote

With this number, I am bidding farewell to The New Welsh Review, as its editor. A large part of the Review is devoted to a selection of writers of that Wales/England and Welsh/English Borderland of variable width which meanders from Chester to Chepstow. This special focus on the Border Country does not indicate that I am about to leave Wales or my commitment to Welsh writing. I have not leapt the dyke or hedge or fence and found all other writing in English is a garden. For it was from English writing in English that, like most like people (probably even 99% educated in Wales), I made first and late incursions into Welsh writing. The belief that Welsh writers of this century have been and are among the best in the British Isles and that yet too many of them suffer non-recognition both sides of the Borders and also beyond Britain led me to accept gladly the launching of NWR and its editorship for its first three years. A looking towards the Borderland however could be taken as reflecting my view that Welsh writers can and should be discussed critically in a context of non-Welsh, especially England's, English writers. When they are no longer regarded as marginal or regional, their possession and presentation of a distinct identity would be increased.

The alienation of Welsh writers apparently has not been the result of place of publication; nor totally the result of a confusion of surnames like Jones, Davies, Thomas. Whereas the dozen or more outstanding Welsh writers who began to write in the 30s and 40s have been published in London (in contrast with recent generations who chiefly publish in Wales — partly because of the rise of some good Welsh publishing houses), how many appear in critical studies of twentieth century English literature, other than the unavoidable like J. C. Powys, David Jones, Dylan Thomas and R. S. Thomas? How often are the younger ones even mentioned? Welsh writers, other than Dylan Thomas, have lacked the publicity which itself would lead to a more deserved quantity of publication. We have attempted to initiate this publicity in NWR, or, to put it more accurately, to strengthen it, in this glossy successor to a line of Welsh Reviews.

The hopeful Editorial to NWR Number One declared 'a need to increase the readership of good Welsh writing in English both in Wales and in the English-speaking world beyond Wales' but also indicated our will to publish excellent English-language writing from outside Wales. I wrote, 'We need wave no flags, provide no platforms', thus dismissing nationalistic and political concerns, among others, and rejoicing in a freedom to look for excellent literary art. But, of course, the Welsh in the Review's title has been read, in part correctly, as a declaration or 'flag', and, wrongly, as an exclusion. Many of those submitting work from addresses outside Wales have written covering letters describing a sometime residence, a spiritually-transforming holiday in Wales, or a Welsh grandmother. When did anyone consider that contribution to The London Magazine or The London Review of Books demanded birth or residence in London? Does this Review fight against an exclusivity which the Welsh (though not their writers?) since the nineteenth century have brought upon themselves?

It was my aim to subject Welsh writers, both established and newcomers, to as much portraiture and critical analysis as I could cram into a quarterly also publishing series of articles, such as on small, interesting libraries, or literary fashions in America, AND prose fiction and poetry. So many Welsh writers have proved worthy of study so far (with plenty yet available for my successor) that, although NWR critics have written from a broad Eng.Lit. view, and reviewers can travel far, there has been little room for large-scale study of non-Welsh writers, to my regret, and an inclination to include studies of 'Celtic' writers like Seamus Heaney and James Kelman. Perhaps however, NWR readers will find a focus on Welsh authors within a 'total' view of English writing quite stimulating. The 'Critics' Debate', which has arisen through Numbers Eleven and Twelve, may be a good example of this; such debate might continue.

It has been in examining literature which is marginal or borderland for lit.crit. purists but central fiction for every-reader that NWR has escaped to wider surveys of authors. Number Five, looking at fine art in Crime Fiction, included writing by P. D. James, H.R. F. Keating and Ruth Rendell (none of Wales or Welsh). Yet a gathering of studies of children's fiction in Number Eight inevitably brought some constraint, and an obvious one, because so many well-known children's writers (GC[S]E syllabus ones included) find their material in the myths and matter of Wales. So, it has been in the borderlands of 'real' literature (a description disputed by P. D. James: see NWR 5) that NWR has most easily leapt the fence.

It is in its poetry and prose fiction that NWR has drawn on talent from the whole English-writing world. With an annual submission of about the same number of poems read for major English poetry competitions (4,000), perhaps NWR has too many prizewinners. But we have given an early push to some promising new poets; as to the occasional short-story writer. A rough count of the contents of NWR One to Twelve reads: 100 articles, 15 interviews/profiles, 130 reviews, 200 poets (more poems, of course), and 42 stories. The last figure is larger than my impression; I wanted more stories than we have printed. My disappointment as editor has been in the quality and type of the majority of short stories submitted. Now, when for years the basic human appetite for stories can be satisfied by a steady flow of them throughout every day and night on television and radio — that is, stories usually forgotten by the next day, something more than a well-shaped, well-told tale is required for a literary Review. Hence, in stories, I have been looking for some extraordinary exploration of, or experiment with form, and that extraordinary feeling for language and the crafty use of it which, to put it too limply, is a main ingredient of a poet. I had hoped that Wales itself, home of Dylan Thomas and Glyn Jones (only to begin the list), would have produced more prose-fictive genius. And humorous writing? That has been almost non-existent.

All this, as I glance back, is to wish my successor as editor, Michael Parnell, good luck and the very happy correspondence with would-be contributors, contributors and readers that I have enjoyed. I take the opportunity to thank all the members of the Editorial Board who have given support and advice, and those not few Editorial Advisers who have helped make NWR a substantial publication. No doubt with the agreement of those members of the Welsh Academy and the University of Wales Association for the Study of Welsh Writing in English most involved, I thank the Welsh Arts Council for its financial sponsorship. Above all, I thank St David's University College, Lampeter (especially the Principal, Lord Morris of Castle Morris) for most generous support of NWR in facilities, resources and aid of many kinds; SDUC has certainly housed and launched NWR well. The editorial office will now move from the very heart of Welsh-speaking, mid-west Wales to Cardiff, on a very edge of Wales and separated only by the Severn estuary from the England of Wordsworth's and Coleridge's Lyrical Ballads. I am pleased that, despite this move, NWR will continue to be printed by the excellent Gomer Press of Llandysul. My heartfelt thanks are to Gomer's Huw and John Lewis, and to Peter Davies of the make-up department, for their amazing generosity, commitment and meticulous care in the production of this mere magazine designed ambitiously beyond the complexity of a normal book. They, and so many, have given freely of their time and energy to ensure that NWR is a magazine worth keeping.


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