Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Small is beautiful

I thought I'd highlight a recently published book from Cinnamon that looks hugely promising: Exposure. It's an anthology of more than 1000 writers from Wales and beyond, presenting their take on what it means to be human by way of that smallest wonder of small wonders: the micro-fiction. It's co-edited by Holly Howitt, a hugely talented young writer and herself a gifted micro-fictioneer.

I was really fortunate to meet and discuss the genre with Holly and Deborah Kay Davies at an Academi Conference earlier this year, and it was fascinating to pick over the history and purpose of a form that, while reflecting the age of tweets, bleats and Facebookery, is, in many respects, an urform. I've personally adored the genre since my first immersion into it with Borges, that grandmaster of mythic fictions in miniature. At its very best, micro-fiction opens doors that lead into immense, immediate worlds. The landscape of Wonderland. One lingering regret I have about my tenure at the Review is that I was somehow never able to accommodate micro-fiction, though I had planned to. Unsolicited submissions somehow never hit that special, immediate spot the genre simply has to and a plan lined-up to otherwise provide, provide never quite came off. Of mice and micro-fiction.

In the meantime, though, for those that long for the micro or want to find out more, here's Exposure. And, incidentally, do also check out Dan Rhodes's superb, hilarious and whip-smart micro-fiction collection on love, Anthropology.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Picador Poetry Prize Shortlist

A little belatedly, for the editor has been in transit, but congratulations to all those shortlisted for this wonderful initiative – the Picador Poetry Prize for an unpublished (at least, unpublished as a first collection) poet. The winning poet will have a first collection published by Picador and be edited by maestro Don Paterson. Particular congratulations to Helen Mort and Ben Wilkinson, both of whom have recently featured in New Welsh Review. The judges for the prize are Don Paterson, John Stammers, Sarah Crown and Jackie Kay and the winner will be announced in 2011. More information on the prize can be found here.

2011 Cardiff International Poetry Competition

The 2011 Cardiff International Poetry Competition is now open and receiving entries. This year's judges are the esteemed poets Don Paterson and Philip Gross (fresh from his Wales Book of the Year win for I Spy Pinhole Eye and T S Eliot win for The Water Table). Further details can be found here.

Sunday, 28 November 2010


Christmas approaches. If you're looking for a unique gift that will last all year long, why not give that special literature lover in your life a subscription to New Welsh Review? Four beautiful issues a year, delivered direct to their door – comprising hundreds of pages of the very best writing from Wales and further afield. Or why not treat yourself by pre-booking this antidote to the New Year blues? Visit our subscriptions page to find out more.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Picks of 2010

The year is old. And so I weigh up the fortunes of what's passed. A human impulse, perhaps. Of the type that Larkin would have endorsed and mocked equally. More fun instead is to draw up an inventory of books that thrilled me in 2010. It's been an interesting year for titles from Wales and Welsh writers this year. I'm looking forward to seeing what achieves consensus among the Wales Book of the Year judges for 2011 (Deborah Kay Davies, Francesca Rhydderch and Jon Gower), who will draw from the well of 2010 to find the winner of £10,000 and considerable kudos. The longlist of ten will be announced in March.

Overall, of those books eligible for the prize I've read, my impression has been one of quality more condensed than in previous years. Equal richness, but less dilution across the output. To me it has seemed that there are clear outliers.

With the caveat that I am missing a month (December)... and can't possibly read everything... and this judge's decision is final and no further correspondence etc... I'd like to put forward my own list. The work that has charmed, sometimes delightfully infuriated or provoked incredible envy – and otherwise made the fact that I spend all my scant available time reading books instead of learning how to cook seem utterly sensible, not to mention a true privilege. It's also heartening to note that this is no Welsh-wash. A number of these titles would have appeared on my list even if it was opened out to the world beyond. So, then, in no particular order:

True Things About Me - Deborah Kay Davies (Canongate) – this title, alas, ineligible
What the Water Gave Me - Pascale Petit (Seren)
Diamond Star Halo - Tiffany Murray (Portobello)
Fireball - Tyler Keevil (Parthian)
Jilted City - Patrick McGuinness (Carcanet)
West: A Journey Through the Landscapes of Loss - Jim Perrin (Atlantic)
Of Mutability - Jo Shapcott (Faber)
On the Third Day - Rhys Thomas (Doubleday)
Into Suez - Stevie Davies (Parthian)
Uncharted - Jon Gower (Gomer) – this title, alas, ineligible

True, some are more consistent than others. While two are absolutely exceptional. But all offer fresh approaches in asking the old questions. And it's all in the questions – at this time more than ever.

I'd heartily recommend all of the above as stocking fillers which will – aside from engendering pleasure – support writers and the houses that publish them, especially if you buy or order from your local, hardworking indie bookshop.

Hay at Kerala

A nice blog piece on the Hay Festival at Kerala can be found here.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

New Welsh Review 90

New Welsh Review is now at the printers and will be out very shortly. This issue includes fantastic new writing from Menna Elfyn, Rebbecca Ray, Geoffrey Hill, Clare Dudman, Michael Symmons Roberts, Rachel Trezise, Matthew David Scott, Gee Williams, Robert Minhinnick, Kathryn Simmonds, Helen Mort, Zoe Brigley and more.