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This report is taken from PN Review 149, Volume 29 Number 3, January - February 2003.

Letter from Wales Sam Adams

Not so long ago (PNR 144), in welcoming the return of Jeremy Hooker to Wales, I mentioned how, in the 1960s, he had taken local literary critics to task for failing to supply the 'astringency' writers needed to see their own work clearly. Roland Mathias, then editor of the Anglo-Welsh Review, was another convinced of the importance of reviewing to raising standards in literature. In his contribution to a Poetry Wales forum on 'Criticism in Wales' in 1979, he set out basic requirements: 'A reviewer has to begin somewhere of course, but he ought not to do so until he is a relatively experienced reader in the Anglo-Welsh field. And having begun, he should apply himself. Read every book, every word. Compare it, if that's possible, with what the poet has written before.' If this appeared to hard-pressed reviewers a doctrine of perfection, they could at least satisfy themselves that Mathias practised what he preached. He is not only acutely intelligent and perceptive, but has always been enormously painstaking in his assessment of the writing of others.

Another, related, concern that Mathias often expressed in the editorial pages of the Anglo-Welsh Review, and still does in conversation, is the unaccountable resistance of London-based newspapers and journals to anything published in Wales. The strange case of his third book of poems, The Roses of Tretower (1952), is a demonstration of this peculiar blindness on the part of literary editors and consequent loss to the reading public. As published ...
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