Landfall magazine

Landfall 9, March 1949.

Charles Brasch's Landfall

Founded in 1947, the quarterly Landfall soon became New Zealand's foremost literary magazine. Otago poet Charles Brasch was the magazine's exacting first editor, and Landfall's high literary standards reflected his ambition to stimulate a vigorous and critical cultural life in New Zealand.

Born in Dunedin into a wealthy Jewish-German family, Brasch began writing poetry at Waitaki Boys' High School, Oamaru, before spending an uneasy three years at Oxford University. The poetry he produced during the 1930s, which he described as his first ‘real’ work, reflected his divided loyalties to two countries. It was mostly written in England, but published in New Zealand journals like Phoenix and Tomorrow. After returning to Dunedin in 1946, Brasch finally found his niche when, the following year, he established Landfall. He was to edit the magazine for the next two decades.

The position gave Brasch lasting influence over the development of the arts in New Zealand. He was a meticulous, often demanding editor, and made Landfall not just a literary journal but a forum for critical comment on New Zealand life and culture. He believed that the arts in New Zealand ‘must … depend on the European tradition’, and judged them against that tradition's highest standards. Although his refusal to publish work that did not meet his exacting criteria led some to label Landfall élitist, his goal was always to create a strong indigenous culture.

In any case it was in New Zealand, rather than England, that Brasch himself gained a reputation as a poet. His first two volumes, The land and the people (1939) and Disputed ground (1948), were published by Caxton Press in Christchurch, under the direction of Denis Glover.

Brasch's contribution to New Zealand literature and culture – as editor, poet and patron – was recognised in May 1963 by the award of an honorary doctorate from the University of Otago. On giving up the editorship of Landfall in 1966, he continued to write and travel widely until his death in 1973. Still published by Otago University Press, the six-decade-old Landfall continues to showcase new fiction and poetry, as well as biographical and critical essays and cultural commentary.

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