Do the Arts Need to Look Upward and Outward?; AGENDA: In the Welsh Literary Scene, the Same Names Crop Up Again and Again

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), October 24, 2001 | Go to article overview

Do the Arts Need to Look Upward and Outward?; AGENDA: In the Welsh Literary Scene, the Same Names Crop Up Again and Again


Byline: MARIO BASINI

WHEN it comes to squaring up to the arts establishment in Wales, the Broadcasting Minister, Dr Kim Howells, punches his full weight. And then some.

Those who run the arts here, he tells us, are a bunch of "constipated old wrinklies", a "self-appointed elite" perpetually doling out hand-outs to each other and closing ranks against those who dare to try to break into their magic circle.

Dr Howells, MP for Pontypridd, confesses that as a 55-year-old he is himself a "wrinkly".

Like all good polemicists bent on creating an argument, he has a way of framing his point in terms so extreme they border on caricature.

But I do believe they contain a fat kernel of truth.

Let me say immediately that what follows is almost exclusively based on the English-language literary scene in Wales since that is the area I know most about.

I suspect it is also the area at which Dr Howells's venom is particularly aimed.

The trouble with couching an argument in terms as emphatic as Dr Howells's is that they leave no room for nuances of meaning.

His words suggest, for example, that all those who run the arts in Wales are entirely self-regarding despots concerned only with clinging to their small patches of power.

That is clearly not true of the Welsh literary scene that I recognise.

It contains many, perhaps even a majority, of dedicated, well-meaning people who are committed to literature and who are doing the best they can for Welsh writing.

But they do form an oligarchy, a dangerously small elite who share an almost uniform set of talents, tastes, standards and aspirations.

Too often, anything that does not quite conform to those standards is rejected and despised.

The problem with an oligarchy, in literature as in politics, is two-fold.

The first is the perpetuation of a power base that promotes consensus and mediocrity and comes to rely on them to sustain them.

The second is the danger that genuine talents are denied the opportunity to discover their own voices and to find a platform from which they can develop.

I know of prize-winning poets, for example, who find it almost impossible to get published in Welsh literary magazines and by Welsh publishers, perhaps because their poetry is too political, too "committed" for sensitive literary stomachs.

The opposite side of the coin is also true.

You can find the same names cropping up again and again when it comes to those selected to represent Welsh literature in English at prestigious events abroad.

I was recently e-mailed a copy of an online magazine called Welsh Literature Abroad. At the end of that was a list of Welsh literary events overseas and those who had been selected to attend them.

Since March one well-known Welsh poet has been to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, to Brussels, Romania and Portugal.

She was also scheduled to go to Amsterdam to launch an anthology of Welsh poetry in Dutch translation, to New York this week to take part in a "UK in New York" week sponsored partly by Wales Arts International and to Sri Lanka at the invitation of the British Council. It is a graphic illustration of just how small the pool of Welsh writers of any reputation is.

As I have already hinted, I believe many of the ills that afflict Welsh literature can be attributed to sheer size.

In major cities like New York, London, Paris or Milan, a variety and quality of literary achievement is guaranteed by the proliferation of newspapers, magazines, publishers, television channels and radio stations.

The commercial arms of publishers dedicated to selling books and making profits subsidise those divisions concerned with creating a more literary product with limited sales appeal.

Mass market professional journalists moonlighting for love as opposed to money add their polish to the columns of literary and political magazines. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Do the Arts Need to Look Upward and Outward?; AGENDA: In the Welsh Literary Scene, the Same Names Crop Up Again and Again
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.