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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria University College, Wellington N.Z. Vol. 21, No. 10. August 6, 1958



For my part, I was clearer about some of the things I didn't want "Landfall" to be, than about what I did want it to be. I was sure, for one thing, that the writers who contributed to it should all be New Zealanders or living in New Zealand. It seemed essential that "Landfall's" limited space should be kept for New Zealand writers, if the journal was to have a properly New Zealand character, was to advance the process of our self discovery, and to present a New Zealand outlook on the world. It might, I admit, have helped circulation in the early years to have included some well-known overseas names among the contributors; but that, I think (even if we could have been certain of getting good work from them), would have been a short term view. Similarly, it seemed essential that the books "Landfall" reviewed should be books by New Zealanders or about New Zealand. Even among these it would have to select. The standard of a literary journal is set above all by its reviews; poems and stories will vary in quality, but the quality of the reviews must be kept as consistent as possible. And I was clear that while "Landfall" would have to cast its net wide in the range of topics it dealt with, it mustn't become simply a rag-bag. Nor must it become in any way parochial.

It could not afford to confine itself to literature and arts alone, because then it wouldn't have found enough readers to support it. It had to try to attract readers with other interests, too; it had to be partly political, and to deal with public affairs in the widest sense—and, of course, literature is part of life, and touches on public affairs in innumerable ways. So "Landfall" would need contributors to write about politics, education, and a dozen other aspects of social life.

It also wanted critics of theatre, painting, music, films. But critics don't grow on every tree. Even born critics have to discover that they are critics; and how can they do so in New Zealand, which offers almost no scope for the practice of criticism, where they cannot find one single great painting, only a very little good drama and music, and few good films? "Landfall" itself could act as critic in one respect; by reproducing among its illustrations a few paintings or drawings every year; it could point to at least some of the serious work being done in the country.

"Landfall" would have had an easier time in one way if another journal like it had been in existence here or had sprung up in rivalry. For one thing, it would then have had no temptation to try to be representative. Its task would have been easier, too, if there had been more good work offering—poems, stories, critical writing, autobiography, and so on—particularly stories. As things are, an editor dare not neglect any writer who shows the least spark of talent.

What, after all, qualifies anyone to be an editor? I began to edit "Landfall" for the simple reason that when, after years of discussion, the time was ripe for it to start, when Denis Glover was able to say that the Caxton Press could now print and publish it, no one else was prepared to take on the job. I had no qualifications. I had done no editing before. I hadn't even studied literature formally; I had no systematic knowledge of any subject at all. Thanks to a lot of miscellaneous reading, however, I did know where to go for knowledge; and I had good friends whose advice I could call on. I have called on them constantly; in that sense "Landfall" has always been a co-operative venture. The experiences that (apart from travel) were to prove most useful to me, were those which gave me a good working knowledge of the English language and how to use and abuse it. I had had to relearn my grammar when school-teaching; I had worked for a long time with an Italian scientist who was writing a book and enlisted me to put his ideas into plain English; and I had spent the war years as a translator All this had taught me to study closely, and to scrutinise the meaning of what I read—and what I wrote. An invaluable discipline.

Before "Landfall" began, New Zealand writers had no chance of publishing work regularly, and would-be readers had no regular means of keeping in touch with what they were writing. There was no assured public for New Zealand work, and it was commonly assumed by people who ought to have known better that nothing written in New Zealand was likely to be of interest. Literature, they thought, was something that comes from England or America. "Landfall" proceeded on the opposite assumption; that New Zealanders will naturally look for a literature of their own in New Zealand. The business of "Landfall" then, should be to ensure continuity: to show that writers were at work all the time, and to find a regular public for their work. The result, I think, has well justified the faith in which "Landfall" was started. Older writers have continued to write, and younger ones have kept appearing year by year; and their work has been read.

—From "Critic", Otago.