The WM Interview Women of Words; If You Thought the Arts Were Dominated by Men, Think Again: Three of Wales' Leading Literary Magazines Are Now Being Run by Women. Rin Simpson Caught Up the Editors of Planet, Poetry Wales And: Helle Michelsen, Editor of Planet Magazine

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), August 28, 2009 | Go to article overview
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The WM Interview Women of Words; If You Thought the Arts Were Dominated by Men, Think Again: Three of Wales' Leading Literary Magazines Are Now Being Run by Women. Rin Simpson Caught Up the Editors of Planet, Poetry Wales And: Helle Michelsen, Editor of Planet Magazine


Planet magazine is also known as The Welsh Internationalist, so it is perhaps appropriate that its editor, Helle Michelsen, has international roots.

Born in Copenhagen, she married a Welshman and moved to Aberystwyth in 1982, but today admits she feels as much at home here as she does in Denmark.

"I was in my early 30s when I moved to Wales, but I got together with my husband in my early 20s, so we had visited lots," she explains.

"I had a good feel of the place when I moved here, it wasn't like moving to a very strange environment.

"I like Wales, I'm very fond of the country. It's beginning to be a toss up of what I identify with."

Helle was so determined to fit in with local culture that she decided to learn the language, and mastered it so well that she even sings with a Welsh choir.

But she's modest about her achievements: "Coming from a small nation as I do, you were brought up learning languages in school because it's very useful. And anyway, I'm interested in languages."

Politics, literature and international affairs count among her other interests, and make her the ideal head of a magazine which deals with just such issues.

A quarterly publication covering the arts, culture, politics and more, it includes features on and interviews with contemporary Welsh artists and writers, as well as political analysis of national and international issues, plus some poetry and fiction.

"It does feel like the perfect fit from my point of view," she says of her role as editor, which she has filled for three years now. "I love working on Planet because it deals with all the issues that are personal issues to me."

And yet Helle never had any notion of running the magazine when she joined the team 20 years ago.

"I did some translation work before I left Copenhagen but I always wanted to go into political and literary journalism, so Planet just suited me," she says.

"But I never expected to be editor. I started off doing subscriptions!" And yet there's no doubt of her commitment to a magazine that she believes plays an important role in Wales today.

"I think it's very important in Wales particularly because it's very easy to be drowned out by the larger neighbour next door," she explains.

"If the magazines weren't there to discuss the particular nature of our society, there are lots of things that would never get dealt with in the proper way."

So what is the fundamental purpose of Planet, as a literary, political and cultural tool? "The purpose of the magazine is to reflect what is actually going on among people in Wales, people who have ideas about the direction they would like to see society going," says Helle.

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The WM Interview Women of Words; If You Thought the Arts Were Dominated by Men, Think Again: Three of Wales' Leading Literary Magazines Are Now Being Run by Women. Rin Simpson Caught Up the Editors of Planet, Poetry Wales And: Helle Michelsen, Editor of Planet Magazine
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