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Remembering Meic Stephens

Remembering Meic Stephens

Meic Stephens was one of the most influential Welsh writers in English, who passed away at the age of 79. He was born in Trefforest in Pontypridd to Arthur Stephens (a power station worker) and Alma Stephens. His career held such a variety, from journalism in Cardiff to joining the newly designated Wales Arts Council in 1967, in which he was a literary director for 23 years. With no background in arts administration, Meic established his own publishing imprint, Triskel Press, then in 1965, he launched Poetry Wales.

With the success of his editorship, Poetry Wales became the “second flowering” of Welsh writing in English (the first being in the 1930’s). It contained voices such as Gillian Clarke, Robert Minhinnick, John Ormond, Leslie Norris, and Harri Webb. For some this magazine resuscitated lapsed talents, bringing them into their maturity.

During all of this, Meic was still an active writer and editor. In later years his poetry won the Crown at the National Eisteddfod for poem sequences in Welsh, his third language. His interest in the rich diversity of European language blossomed and he went on to publish translations in both Welsh and French.

He will be highly remembered for his skills as a compiler and an editor, demonstrated in his editorship of The Oxford Companion to the Literature of Wales (1986), and with Dorothy Eagle, The Oxford Illustrated Guide to Great Britain and Ireland (1992).

His marriage to Ruth Meredith, who was from North Wales, introduced ties of kinship and friendship to a large circle of people prominent in Welsh life. Now fluent in Welsh, it became the language of his home and family. So much so that his grandchildren swelled the number of Welsh speakers recorded at the last census.

In 1990 he left the Wales Arts Council, renamed as the Arts Council of Wales, to go freelance. He used his skills acquired over his career in things such as translating and editing and eventually joined the staff at the University of Glamorgan in 1994, close to his birthplace. He became a professor of Welsh writing in English until 2005.

During his retirement, Meic won the Wales Book of the Year Prize with Rhys Davies: A Writers Life, his biography of a Welsh novelist and short story writer. He went on to publish his autobiography My Shoulder to the Wheel which appeared the 2017 anthology The Old Red Tongue (co-edited by Gwyn Griffiths).

Meic Stephens, writer, editor, academic and arts administrator. Born 23rd of July, 1938 and died on the 2nd of July 2018.