Friday, 24 December 2010

Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry

Interrupting my hiatus – how strange a phrase – to extend warm congratulations to Wales's own Gillian Clarke who receives the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry. The Guardian has the full story here.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

2010 Endnote

One of the most extraordinary aspects of this job is the way in which each individual issue is so very many months in the making. Six months, to be specific. And there I am, with my spreadsheet of delicately balanced and honed deadlines. Chasing. Saying grace. Waiting to exhale. It’s no romance, but, you know, it really is a love story – mapped by Excel. And I know every dramatic cell by rote.

The downside of editing and producing a literary quarterly in an age of immediacy, where life is tweeted and you’ll be lucky for a single to land more than two weeks at the top of the charts, is that so much currency - or 'sense' of such – is inevitably lost. I’ve been approached with proposals for topical reviews or articles on countless occasions and have had to explain that currency for this moment won’t equate to currency for the magazine months down the line, when copy will actually appear. You have to opt for style over fashion. Ah well, I'll share a secret: I've always been a fan of that approach anyhow.

Of course, a little calculation reveals that if each issue is six months in the making and four appear in a year, issues are conceived, commissioned, edited and set in an eternal overlap.

Or should that be infernal?

When I first became editor of New Welsh Review, I was frustrated by the sheer lack of space. Head space. Breathing space. Space, space. There is no editorial, commissioning or production support. Editing copy for one issue, while punting out ideas for the next at the same time, can leave one with a haunted (hunted?) look. And all the time, the clock: ticking, ticking. But, as is often the case, perversely, the things that start out as the bane become the beauty. In a sense, it is as if the magazine, while lacking some 'currency' by the limitations of the form, has its own little eternity. Nothing stops. And where, now, did this magazine actually begin? 1988, by our records, but it's hard to believe it was that short a time ago. And while its eternity simply is, each issue is self-contained. In some strange sense, this routine and each issue's sense of belonging to itself, liberates the editor from a sense of ownership – which is the worst thing that can happen to any literary magazine. Guardianship is what it is all about.

Our winter issue is out – and no sooner out than the next is well into production. Of course, the next issue, published in the spring, is a little different for me this time. It will be my last. And so, while the magazine itself doesn’t stop, this is where, for most people, I suppose I step off, at least in theory.

Despite the unexpected sadness putting this last issue into place (a sadness which should have been perhaps entirely expected), I am looking forward to my remaining months in post until this spring and am still certain that the time is right for me to move on to my own projects and my own creative life, a decision I made early this year. Would that we could be so many people and serve so many purposes all at the same time.

This has been a wonderful year for New Welsh Review – and for me on a personal level. We’ve come through, despite a crippling recession. We’ve continued to publish the very best names around. We’ve participated in some great events. We’ve had enormous fun, for all the hard work. It's been fulfilling, joyful – and the sun shone at Hay.

I want to thank all our engaged readers and our gifted writers. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. More in January.

Monday, 13 December 2010

More on the HEFCW cuts affecting University of Wales Press

An article from The Western Mail, citing Zoe Brigley.

Writing workshops at the Glyn Jones Centre in 2011

Here's a lively link to some workshops organised by Academi and taking place at the Glyn Jones Centre, Millennium Centre in 2011, featuring Tom Anderson, Holly Howitt, Susie Wild and John Harrison. The workshops are free, so if you're in or near the Cardiff area, book your tickets asap – and enjoy.

Friday, 10 December 2010

HEFCW withdraws funding from University of Wales Press

I would like to comment on a serious issue which poses a very grave risk to the future of scholarship in both the languages of Wales.

The Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) has just announced that it will withdraw its grant to the University of Wales Press (UWP) for publications in the Welsh language or about Welsh culture. This is a disaster for the academic study of Wales and jeopardises the very future of scholarship about Wales in both the languages of Wales.

Without a viable source of funding for academic publishing in Wales, 'Welsh Studies' - that is scholarship about Wales - and scholarship in the Welsh language will be in an untenable position. It will be unable to perform in the Research Evaluation Framework (REF) and unable to take its place on an international platform. In order to understand its culture, interrogate its past and build a meaningful future, Wales needs its researchers and teachers. Without a means to circulate research, scholarship and teaching will fade and die.

We live in a time of pragmatism now. But it is crucial that what is truly important is not lost. We all need to engage to support the present and safeguard the future. There are actions that can be taken. Here's the link to a Facebook group set up to campaign against this move, which discusses live issues and will also give you further information as to what you can do to help..

Monday, 6 December 2010

I meant to flag up this great site to readers who might not be aware of it some time ago. It fell through the cracks. I'll rectify that. features comment across the spectrum of politics, literature and the wider culture, and is an invariably good read. You can comment, too – which is fortunate since most people seem to disagree online, I find. But you'll get none of the tedious trolling that tends to be unfortunately magnetically-attracted to the Grauniad's Comment is Free and, more pertinently, you'll find Wales. Here's intelligent, constructive disagreement and debate on Wales and its interests by smart people. fills an important space in Welsh reporting. Enjoy.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Dylan Thomas Prize winner announced

Congratulations to poet Elyse Fenton who takes the 2010 Dylan Thomas Prize, a cheque for £30,000 and the all-important profile that the win brings. It's great to see a poet take the prize this time around. (I thought that might happen, but, admittedly, I had my money on Carcanet poet Caroline Bird, with her second consecutive shortlisting.) Fenton's poetry tackles the Big Theme of our times, curiously (or perhaps not that curiously) avoided by many younger poets – the war. You can find out more about Elyse and her winning collection, Clamor, by visiting her website and here is a news snippet from the Beeb covering the win.