NWR Issue 1


Here is the first number of The New Welsh Review. This announcement echoes the Editorial opening sentence of the first number of Gwyn Jones's The Welsh Review of February 1939; but, almost fifty years on, this Welsh Review is not a pioneer but the inheritor of the modes and achievements of a series of periodicals concerned with Welsh writing in English. Unlike the editor of The Welsh Review (1939-46), or even those first, extensive and creative editors of The Anglo-Welsh Review, Raymond Garlick (1949-60) and Roland Mathias (1961-76), the present editor need not argue the case for a Welsh literature in English in Wales. But, alas, there is still a need to increase the readership of good Welsh writing in English both in Wales and in the English-speaking world beyond Wales.

Roland Mathias's article, 'Literature in English' in The Arts in Wales, 1950-75 (ed. Meic Stephens, 1979), charts in detail the very slow but sure rise in the publication of 'creative' Welsh writing and the slower rise of scholarly criticism of that writing within that period. But, the present time could hardly seem better for the encouragement of writers and critics in Wales. Notice but a few signs and events: publishing houses like Poetry Wales Press and Gomer Press are massively increasing their output; London publishers are putting into paperback not only the dead but the living writers whom they have always considered the giants of Wales, like Emyr Humphreys and R. S. Thomas; the interest in Welsh writers - in persons and in print - is growing in N. America; the Welsh Office is encouraging the study of Welsh literature in English in Schools; the Welsh Academy is bringing Welsh writing to the public with new vigour and new devices; University Colleges have been running courses in Welsh literature since the seventies; a newly-formed University of Wales Association for the Study of Welsh Writing in English is launching a series of reprints of outstanding Welsh texts from the University of Wales Press, Poetry Wales Press and Carcanet. (As our title page shows, the Welsh Academy and the University Association are giving and will give their experience and skills to The New Welsh Review. Moreover, through flourishing periodicals like Planet, Poetry Wales, The Powys Review and The Anglo-Welsh Review, through the energies of critics like Roland Mathias and Tony Conran, of organisers and editors like Meic Stephens, there is now at hand a large body of authoritative and lively studies - like the large U.W.P. Writers of Wales Series, and debates, definitions, discussions and lists galore. These all provide critics and writers with access to their heritage and literary environment to which The Oxford Companion to the Literature of Wales (1986) gives an easy lead and seal.

The New Welsh Review, as its first contents indicate, is a specifically literary English language magazine. Each quarterly Review, like this one, should obtain a balance between prose fiction, poetry and critical studies, a balance with a variety which we hope will please a broad range of readers. We need wave no flags, provide no platforms, but are pledged to publish good, indeed excellent, writing. We are grant-aided by the Welsh Arts Council and have a special commitment to publishing Welsh writing and critical studies of Welsh literature. But, obviously there is much excellent writing in English produced outside as well as inside Wales and the Editors are glad there is no 'frontier sealed/at Chepstow' or at sea. The first number includes a few non-Welsh writers, like Norman MacCaig and Michael Longley. When established, the Review will attract more. In the meantime, and for a long time to come, it is obvious that, should we wish, The New Welsh Review could go on, bursting at the seams, with writing from the land of its birth and habitation. This first number is narcissistic by design, even in the detail of its display and dialogue between some critic-poets; it is quite healthy 'with inbreeding'.

This first Review is concerned largely with beginnings in criticism, poetry and prose. A cluster of articles surrounds Raymond Garlick's sad farewell to The Anglo-Welsh Review to which Welsh writers have been indebted for forty years, and essays on Raymond Garlick's own poetry spanning forty years. These not only take up the fifty years' history of the problem of naming Welsh literature in English and so giving it identity, but move to the many 'firsts' of A. G.Prys Jones (1888-1987) who was probably the first poet to write patriotic poems about Wales in English since John Dyer in the eighteenth century. In another section of the Review, following the recent republication of Caradoc Evans's My People (1915) (the first in the University Association's series of reprints) we approach a reassessment of that brilliant but cruel collection of short stories set in West Wales. My People is usually seen by those who consider Welsh writing in English to belong only to this century to have 'indubitably begun' it. In future numbers we hope to focus on the art of the short story, an attractive form for Welsh writers: in NWR 2 there will be an article on Richard Hughes's stories.

Several series of articles are started in this Review. The first number of The Welsh Review included a short story by Glyn Jones. The first of our Review's series of interviews/profiles is with Glyn Jones, a profoundly influential critic (The Dragon Has Two Tongues, 1968) and poet, novelist and writer of stories. In Number Two we hope to interview Gwyn Jones of the same powerful generation: this will coincide with the celebration of Gwyn Jones's work in the Cardiff Literature Festival. Additionally in this Review: Peter Macdonald Smith starts a series of three articles; Gillian Clarke is the first subject, we hope, of studies of young Welsh writers; and starting with the Old Library in S.D.U.C., Lampeter, the editorial home of the Review, we begin a series of short accounts of the dozen small, interesting and accessible libraries scattered throughout Wales. The present Review is variously concerned with the art of the book. We shall occasionally discuss visual artists whose work is related to literature. This Review snatches up an illustration or two by Margaret Jones who this summer has followed up her remarkable illustrations of Tales from the Mabinogion (1984) with others to the racy, new translation by Gwyn Thomas and Kevin Crossley-Holland, The Quest for Olwen (Lutterworth Press, Cambridge). NWR 2 will include an article on Margaret Jones's work.

What else? Whenever possible, our contents will be related to current literary events, such as festivals and exhibitions. Thus the next Review will include articles on Brenda Chamberlain. See our VIEWS AND NEWS section at the end of each Review for current and coming events. We have put VIEWS AND NEWS at the end on the advice of Evelvn Home who declared, on 'Desert Island Discs', that her agony columns were so placed because all readers turn first to end pages. The New Welsh Review 2 will also include articles on the novels of the late Raymond Williams and of Emyr Humphreys who published Open Secrets this summer.

We wish to produce a Review of both present and long-lasting value: we should be glad of your comments.


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