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Sam Adams

Letters from Wales: Memories and Encounters in Literature and Life

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This book will be released in September 2024.

Pre-orders are charged at time of order and the book will be posted to you as soon as it becomes available.

UK postage is 99 pence per order.


‘This is writing in time and over time; the author’s horizons widen as he goes, his impressions change... What is revealed is the generous deep-rootedness of the author’s cultures.’ – Michael Schmidt

‘His writing respects writers, respects the past and, because of this quality, it continuously offers readers something surprising and new.’ – Jonathan Edwards, Costa Prize-winning poet

'with Letters from Wales Sam Adams has created what has become one of my favourite books dealing with the histories and cultures of our homeland. Nominally concerned with a country’s literatures, packed with praise and puzzlement, Adams’s ‘Letters' is a vastly wide-ranging collection of personal engagements. Those who know Sam Adams's own poetry will be delighted by the self-revelations that create a delicious seam throughout this work. For example, the editor singles out a depiction of a miner’s lamp. Brilliant, poignant. Originally a series of columns in PN Review, Letters from Wales can now be enjoyed in one indispensable volume.' – Robert Minhinnick

'This collection of Sam Adams’s pieces, written over the years for PN Review, is a literary journey in the company of writers and writings of Wales, and beyond. Sam Adams was there at the start, when a few believers sparked a renaissance of Welsh writings in English, when Poetry Wales, The Anglo-Welsh Review, the Triskel Press were launched, slim volumes were published, and for the first time the TLS reviewed poetry from Wales. I will return to it again and again, to learn, and to remember our story.' – Gillian Clarke

'Drawing on decades of experience as a writer at the heart of Welsh literary life, Adams has treated readers of PN Review to short, intimate commentaries on the cultural sector in Wales as it has evolved around him... Letters from Wales stands alone as an invaluable guide to Welsh writing.' – Sam Young, Wales Arts Review

'In these columns, as impressive for their depth as they are for their intellectual breadth, Adams analyses the work of acclaimed Welsh writers such as Gillian Clarke, R. S. Thomas, and Rhian Edwards with scholarly panache' – Joshua Rees, Buzz Magazine

'This is a huge book which serves to demonstrate the no less enormous contribution made by Sam Adams to Welsh literary life... Adams is consistently the most amiable and urbane of companions, illuminating and entertaining as he intelligently surveys the world of letters from a Welsh perspective.' – Jon Gower, Nation. Cymru

'Adams writes with magisterial clarity as if for the general reader from outside Wales, but it’s sometimes when describing ourselves to others that we learn most. Informative, great for dipping into, and testimony of a lifetime of service to this country.' Christopher Meredith, Wales Arts Review

Since 1996, Sam Adams’s ‘Letter from Wales’ column has been appearing in PN Review, one of the most highly-regarded UK poetry magazines, offering insight and appreciation of Welsh writing, culture and history. This landmark volume collects these letters – a quarter century of work – and offers one of the most unique, independent and passionate critical voices on the writing and cultural output of Wales during this period.

Here you will find erudite appreciations of the work of a wide range of recent and contemporary Welsh writers from Gillian Clarke to Roland Mathias, RS Thomas to Rhian Edwards. Alongside this, Adams offers us lyric essays to Welsh history, and clear-eyed examinations of the institutions of Welsh culture. Collected for the first time in this volume, the ‘letters’ are among the most significant and sustained attempts during this period to present Welsh writing to an audience throughout the UK and beyond.


Sam Adams was born in 1934, and raised in the small mining valley of Gilfach Goch, when it still possessed three working pits. In common with most of the valley’s children at that time, his father and grandfathers were mineworkers. He was educated at a local primary school, Tonyrefail Grammar School and the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, where he studied English. He began writing in the corners of a busy working life in the education service, emerging first as a poet. His work appeared in all the Anglo-Welsh magazines and he became successively reviews editor then editor of Poetry Wales.

For the University of Wales Press he has written three monographs in the ‘Writers of Wales’ series, on Geraint Goodwin, T J Llewelyn Prichard and Roland Mathias, and edited Mathias’s Collected Poems and Collected Short Stories. His three novels, Prichard’s Nose and In the Vale (both Y Lolfa), and The Road to Zarauz (Parthian) have attracted critical praise, as has Where the Stream Ran Red (Y Lolfa), an amalgam of family and local history. His connection with Manchester-based Carcanet began in 1974 when he edited Ten Anglo-Welsh Poets for the press. Since 1982 he has made more than 150 contributions to its magazine PN Review.