Dylan Thomas in Winter

By Byron Beynon
Dylan Thomas had a healthy nostalgia for childhood, the winter months, Christmas and the New Year, conjuring up feelings and memories within stories, poems and reminiscences of time past, using language of a familiar season when thoughts were cast back to more innocent times.
“Memories of Christmas” was reissued, enlarged, and sold to Harper’s Bazaar for 300 dollars under the title “A Child’s Memories of Christmas in Wales”. He also made a recording of it.  It begins with:
“One Christmas was so much like another, in those years, around the sea-town corner now, and out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six.”
He leaves his house in Cwmdonkin Drive and walks down the festive hill facing the bay as:
“All the Christmases roll down the hill towards the Welsh-speaking sea, like a snowball growing whiter and bigger and rounder, like a cold and headlong moon bundling down the sky that was our street;”
He later returns to the comfort of his home “and the fire in the front room, and bang go the crackers, and holy, holy, holy, ring the bells, and the glass bells shaking on the tree…”
In a letter from Laugharne in December 1939 he wrote to his friend and fellow poet Vernon Watkins; it opens with a reply “What do I want for Christmas? Oh, that’s nice.  I want a war-escaper – a sort of ladder, I think, attached to a balloon ….. could I perhaps have the New Yorker Annual (published by Hamish Hamilton…) which is all funny drawings, half a game, half a book? I should like that very much indeed …. But there will be Christmas Eve for us, and we’ll smoke your ridiculous cigarettes and buy bathfuls of Cointreau, bitter, biddy, or ink.  For you this Christmas a record: which?”
The writer and commentator, John Ackerman, noted in his book “Welsh Dylan” that “Thomas had anticipated this presentation of the natural world in the poems of childhood, and also in “A Winter’s Tale”, which is an expansive and lyrical evocation of country life in winter:” The opening 10 lines sing through the winter air:
“It is a winter’s tale
That the snow blind twilight ferries over the lakes
And floating fields from the farm in the cup of the vales,
Gliding windless through the hand folded flakes,
The pale breath of cattle at the stealthy sail,
And the stars falling cold,
And the smell of hay in the snow, and the far owl
Warning among the folds, and the frozen hold
Flocked with the sheep white smoke of the farm house cowl
In the river wended vales where the tale was told.
Dylan sent the completed poem to the American anthologist Oscar Williams in New York saying: “The longish one, I’m glad to say, has taken a great deal of time & trouble”. It was eventually published in Poetry (Chicago) in July 1945.
Back in Swansea, after much of the town he loved had been destroyed during the war he recalls in Return Journey: “It was a cold white day in High Street, and nothing to stop the wind slicing up from the docks, for where the squat and tall shops had shielded the town from the sea lay their blitzed flat graves marbled with snow and headstoned with fences.  Dogs, delicate as cats on water, as though they had gloves on their paws, padded over the vanished buildings.”
And again, from the same piece, the excellent “staring through the glass of the hotel door at the snowflakes sailing down the sky, like Siberian confetti.”
In “The Followers” he is again in Swansea, prose full of detail and vivid as a painting: “It was six o’clock on a winter’s evening.  Thin, dingy rain spat and drizzled past the lighted street lamps.  The pavements shone long and yellow.  In squeaking goloshes, with mackintosh collar up and bowlers and trilbies weeping, youngish men from the offices bundled home against the thistly wind…”
And finally, as the old year becomes history and a new year approaches Dylan writes: “Of what is coming in the New Year I know nothing, except that all that is certain will come like thunderclaps or like comets in the shape of four-leaved clovers, and all that is unforeseen will appear with the certainty of the sun who every morning shakes a leg in the sky’” (from The Crumbs of One Man’s Year)
Byron Beynon lives and writes in Swansea, Wales



A Fever For Colour

By Byron  Beynon

Portrait of J D Innes by Ian Strang

Portrait of Innes by Ian Strang (1913)

The Painter J D INNES (1887-1914): A brief introduction to his life and work

James Dickson Innes was born in Wales in 1887, the third son of John Innes (1853-1923) an accountant, and his wife Alice (1857-1942) who lived in the Carmarthenshire town of Llanelli.

The year 1887 appears to have been a fertile one for the birth of painters. Marc Chagall (1887-1985), Georgia O’Keefe (1887-1986), and LS Lowry (1887-1976) were all born in the same year as Innes. However, Innes did not have the luxury of living and painting into middle life let alone mature age. His life was tragically cut short, dying of tuberculosis at the age of 27. Nevertheless during a few short years, he produced several memorable paintings, rich in imagery with an exquisite harmony of colour, or as his friend John Fothergill (1876-1957) said, “he painted nature with the brilliance of stained glass.”

His grandfather Robert and his parents valued education and had a correct ethos towards the children. The grandfather had opened a school in Llanelli and was also secretary of the art class. His mother had been born in Lyon, France in 1857. She offered stability to the family. Her connection with France may have kindled the boy’s imagination and curiosity about her life there. I also believe the landscape of Wales; Carmarthenshire, Breconshire and Pembrokeshire awakened in him a sense of place, and a need to capture those landscapes creatively by sketching and painting.

Furnace Quarry Llanelli

The Furnace Quarry, Llanelli (1906)

Llanelli’s population in 1900 was approximately 36,000, an industrial town, it produced most of Britain’s output of copper. Although an industrial town it was in close proximity to unspoilt countryside and situated by the sea.

Innes attended Christ College, Brecon, before continuing his education at the School of Art, Carmarthen. He was inspired at first to follow JMW Turner’s footsteps (Turner had made five sketching and painting tours of Wales between 1792 and 1799), and travels through south Wales, visiting and painting Kidwelly, Carew and Chepstow castles, and Tintern Abbey. Innes would later visit north Wales; places such as Bala, Aberystwyth, Llanidloes and the Arenig mountain which became an important subject matter, obsessed by it, he acquired a passion for the mountain. A favourite story of Innes about the painter Turner was when a lady complained to Turner that she did not see in nature the colours Turner saw, he replied “and don’t you wish you could, Madam ?”


Innes seems to have been a delicate son, not as robust as his elder brothers, suffering bouts of ill-health. Undeterred, and with the support of his family, by the autumn of 1905, he was in London, studying at the Slade School of Art. He first lived at Wimbledon, but later moved to Cheyne Walk, and to Fitzroy street. It was an important period in his life, meeting fellow artists and contacts in the art world. He would meet early influences such as Walter Sickert (1860-1942), Augustus John (1878-1961), John Fothergill (1876-1957) and the Australian painter Derwent Lees (1884-1931). He also went on to exhibit his work at the Chenil Gallery, Chelsea.

In 1908 he travelled to France with John Fothergill. He headed south to Bozouls, and then to Collioure, following the paths taken by Matisse and Derain who had been there a few years earlier in 1905. Innes’ work became influenced by the strong sunlight and his colours became bolder after he moved to the south of France. He would visit France several times, spending time at Collioure, the Pyrenees, Perpignan and Paris. Hilary Spurling in her biography of Matisse quoted a contemporary traveller taking the train from Perpignan at the beginning of the twentieth century “All of a sudden as you emerge on the crest of a hill from the rocky corridor, Collioure! Radiant with light on the curve of a small bay, hemmed in by the last burnt foothills of the mountains, a blaze of reds and ochres…..Is this still France, or already Africa, with its clumps of agave, and its palm trees dotted here and there among the garden?”

In 1912 Innes also travelled into Spain, south to Ronda, and the mountains of Andalusia, capturing in his work the light and colour of the landscapes he saw and experienced.

In the same year he briefly visited Coole Park, in Galway, Ireland. It was the home of Lady Gregory, born in 1852, who was a great friend and influence on the poet WB Yeats (1865-1939). During his stay there Innes painted The Lake at Coole Park, Co. Galway. There is a tree standing in the garden, known as the Autograph Tree, inscribed by Innes; it also has the initials of Yeats, Bernard Shaw and others.

Arenig North Wales

Arenig, North Wales (1913

Back in north Wales he developed an extraordinary passion for painting the Arenig Mountain. He was fascinated by it and painted it over and over again, just like Paul Cezanne (1839-1906) did with his Monte Sainte-Victoire. Innes developed a wonderful sense of colour, and painted Arenig from different viewpoints, in diverse lights and weather conditions. The mountain situated in the middle of the moorland between Bala and Blaenau Ffestiniog is a natural landscape which Innes painted with great intensity. Augustus John who had spent time with Innes in north Wales, was amazed by the restless and creative energy that Innes had acquired for the mountain.

In February 1913 five of his paintings were selected for the prestigious International Armory Exhibition of Modern Art which toured New York, Chicago and Boston.

Sadly, during the last years of his short life, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. By the end of 1913 and early 1914 Innes was seriously ill, and after spending a brief time in Morocco and Tenerife, he was taken back to England. First to Brighton, where his mother took care of him, and then finally he was moved to a nursing home in Swanley in Kent. It was there that this skilled artist died on the 22nd of August 1914.

Town of Collioure

The Town of Collioure (1908)

Some of today’s critics believe that Innes’ work is the link between Turner’s experiments with light and colour and David Hockney’s work (b1937). The intense light of the south of France encouraged bolder and brighter colours, which his friend Fothergill thought was inspired by their stay in the town of Collioure with its “gemlike bay” and “fishing boats of antique build and scarlet sails;……and where his all-excelling sense of colour was awakened.”

Augustus John in a tribute later said, “His work will live when that of many happier and healthy men will have grown with the passing years cold, dull and lifeless.”

In 2014 the National Museum of Wales held an exhibition of his work, marking not only the centenery of his death but also to celebrate this gifted and prodigious artist, whose early death robbed Wales and the world of a great talent.


James Dickson Innes 1887-1914 by John Hoole and Margaret Simons Lund Humphries (2013)

James Dickson Innes by John Fothergill Ariel Books on the Arts Faber &Faber (1946)

Matisse the Life by Hilary Spurling, Penguin Books (2009)

In Montmartre  Picasso, Matisse & Modernism in Paris 1900-1910 by Sue Roe Fig Tree imprint of Penguin Books  (2014)

Post-Impressionism Royal Academy of Arts London 1979-80 catalogue published by

Weidenfeld & Nicolson London

The Great Bohemian The letters of Ida John Bloomsbury Publishing (2017)

Carmarthenshire The Concise History by Dylan Rees University of Wales Press (2006)


Byron Beynon lives in Swansea, Wales.  His work has appeared in several publications including North of Oxford, Poetry Wales, Cyphers, San Pedro River Review, The London Magazine, The Worcester Review and the human right anthology In Protest (University of London and Keats House Poets).  He coordinated the Wales’ section of the anthology Fifty Strong (Heinemann). Collections include Cuffs (Rack Press) and The Echoing Coastline (Agenda Editions).  He is currently working on a project with Dr Barry Plummer about the artist J D Innes



Contributor Profile – Byron Beynon


Byron Beynon is a regular contributor of poetry, essays and reviews to North of Oxford. He lives in West Wales. He has lived in London, Norway, France and Australia. His work has appeared in several publications including Agenda, London Magazine, Plainsongs, Chiron Review, Poetry Wales, Cyphers and the human rights anthology In Protest (University of London and Keats House Poets).  Collections include Cuffs (Rack Press), The Echoing Coastline (Agenda Editions). His selected poems appeared in 2018 (Bilingual: English/Romanian – published by Bibliotecha Universalis/Collectiile/ Revistei “Orizont Literar Contemporan”, translations by Dr Monica Manolachi, University of Bucharest).

At North of Oxford:

 Poetry on the Net

Nine Muses

Militant Thistles

MockingHeart Review

Foxglove Journal

The Galway Review


The London Magazine

Poppy Road Review


At Amazon:

At Book Depository:

“The Welsh Poppy Flame of the Sun” A Tribute to Raymond Garlick (1926-2011)

Raymond 006

By Byron Beynon

Raymond Garlick, who died in Cardiff on 19 March 2011, was an important and influential figure in support of Wales and Welsh writing in English. He had significant achievements as a poet, editor, critic, political campaigner and teacher. The last time I spoke to him was in March 2010 when he telephoned me about an article I had written on the letters he had received from the Nobel Prize nominated poet R. S. Thomas. Garlick had introduced me to the works of Thomas when he tutored me at Trinity College, Carmarthen. It was there that he also led me to discover David Jones, Idris Davies, Glyn Jones, Dylan Thomas, Alun Lewis, John Ormond and Leslie Norris. As a teenager, listening to him speak about these writers was an inspirational and illuminating experience. I will miss the conversations and meetings we went on to have over the years at his flat off College Road (along with some meetings in London, Cardiff and Swansea), as well as receiving his letters and cards. His beautiful italic handwriting was a fine aesthetic experience. Even R.S. Thomas, in his letters to Raymond, noted, ‘I hold your calligraphy up to Gwydion as an example’.

Garlick had fascinating recollections of other writers. He met Dylan Thomas a month or so before his death in 1953 and described him to me as gentle, modest, humble, a dedicated poet. He also spoke of Roy Campbell’s poetry as having a stronger influence on his own apprentice efforts than anybody else’s. Garlick was impressed by Campbell’s exact craftsmanship, his striking imagery, the almost crystalline quality of his verse.

RG - Cross

It was because of Campbell’s poem, ‘Horses on the Camargue’, that Garlick went there himself. The emblem on the front of three of his books is the Croix de Camargue . Made of wrought iron, the original rises from a block of stone and stands in the village of Saintes Maries de la Mer by the church where the gypsies made their annual pilgrimage. It looks towards Africa, and it struck Garlick as being a symbol of Europe, together with the many other symbols that one can work out from its shape, the crossed trident and the anchor.

Garlick was conscious of how fortunate he had been to know two major writers, R. S. Thomas and John Cowper Powys, and to have been enriched by their friendship. He was aware of the strange coincidence that a book by each of them, The Stones of the Field and Obstinate Cymric, was published a short distance from where he lived in Carmarthen, at Keidrych Rhys’s Druid Press, and added that not every town sees the launch of a book by two great writers.

Collected Poems - RG

Garlick was fascinated by the shape and appearance of letters, words (examples of his shaped poems include ‘Marwnad’, ‘Capitals’ and ‘Vowels’) handwriting, carved and engraved inscriptions, samplers and alphabets. It came as no surprise, therefore, that on the cover of his Collected Poems  was an alphabet by Eric Gill, carved by Lawrence Cribb. He thought The Engravings of Eric Gill, by Christopher Skelton, a marvellous book, and believed the fundamental mystery was that certain shapes can convey sounds, meanings and nuances of feeling. He found them beautiful as shapes, as well as carved, engraved, penned or painted letters.

As a child growing up in north-west London Garlick spent holiday visits at his grandparents’ house in Deganwy. It was there that a sense of place and freedom was awakened in him, which eventually brought about a commitment towards Wales. London suburbia was not for him.

By the 1940s he had met Brenda Chamberlain, the first painter he had ever known. He was a student at Bangor at the time, and he rented from her the studio half of Ty’r Mynydd, the cottage where she had lived with John Petts. In 1949, still only twenty-three, with no Arts Council funding, he became one of the founding editors of Dock Leaves (later renamed the Anglo-Welsh Review). The 1960s saw him teaching in the Netherlands. Again, the experience brought a new dimension to his poetry; it also brought further opportunities to travel in Europe. By 1967 he decided the time was right to return to Wales and he eventually became Principal Lecturer in Welsh Studies at Trinity College, Carmarthen.

I recall his enjoyment at seeing a Pre-Raphaelite exhibition in London during the 1980s. He had known many of the pictures from reproductions going back to childhood and had seen many of them at the Tate on previous visits. But to him it was magnificent to see them en masse. He wrote to me at the time, ‘I like so many of them because they are essentially literary and have their point of departure in a poem. Many of them too display wonderful technical skill, and a breathtaking sense of colour’. He thought the same two things characterised the Gwen John film shown on BBC2 in 1984 – beautiful landscape shots, posed like paintings, and interiors like Dutch still-life painting.

On the walls of his apartment, two works by Gordon Stuart gave him, he told me, huge pleasure every day. The Bishop’s Palace, St. David’s and a wonderful blue Llansteffan Headland. He also thought highly of Gordon’s portrait of him, made during the Year of Literature, held in Swansea in 1995 (Fig.3). In his poem, St. David’s by Gordon Stuart, Garlick writes: ‘Towers, gables, clerestories swim/In washes of Arthurian light/No rain can dull, no winter dim.’
It is worth quoting a few more lines from his poetry where his eye sharpens into focus:
The hat, I think, fixes
In truth’s relief
An unprepared heart
In the ambush of grief.
–        from ‘Picasso’s Femme Qui Pleure
Done for my grandfather, the first
Painting I knew …
                     –        from ‘A Still Life by Barbaro’
The high corn like a golden fleece
For Van Gogh to eternalise.
            – from ‘Hiraeth’
Above the shimmering Turner-scape …
As we draw
Near to the buoyant palaces,
We see what Canaletto saw.
            – from ‘Venetian Entry’
He had a childhood memory of entering the beauty of an art room at school and wrote:
Dazed by the beauty, For the first time …
Sit down
said the voice, Except
That boy with the grin
On his face. You put
Your hands on your head,
To-day, I know, of course. It just did not occur
To him that school might be a place one could be happy in.
              –        from ‘The Art Lesson’

Reading through his poems gives one a sense of pleasure; the elegance of form, the style and structure are all there – richly shaped and tuned words, skilfully conducted. A man of elegant qualities and skills, Garlick played a central role in the advancement of Welsh literature in English.

Delphic Vogage - RG

It was a privilege to have met him and, like many others, I was fortunate to have known him. I will let Raymond have the final words, from his fine poem, Traeth LLansteffan, which the artist Jonah Jones illustrated for the cover of The Delphic Voyage :
Walking along the washed
skin of the world, under the high
ocean of the evening
heavens, only the insistent sigh
of the respiring
sea to be heard. The scoured rocks dry,
sculptured and matt, ice-blue
and Tyrian, acid as inks.
The promontory
silhouetted, bulks like a sphinx
over the orient Tywi,
and the sun sinks.
Raymond Garlick
A Sense of Europe (Gomer Press, 1968)
A Sense of Time (Gomer Press, 1972)
Incense (Gomer Press, 1976)
Collected Poems 1946-86 (Gomer Press, 1987)
Travel Notes (Gomer Press, 1992)
The Delphic Voyage and other poems (Carreg Gwalch Cyf, 2003)
Literary Criticism:
An Introduction to Anglo-Welsh Literature (University of Wales Press, 1970)
Ed. with Roland Mathias, Anglo-Welsh Poetry 1480-1980 (Seren,1984)
Raymond Garlick by Don Dale-Jones in the Writers of Wales series (University of Wales Press, 1996)
R.S. Thomas – Letters to Raymond Garlick 1951-1999 (Gomer Press, 2009)
“Byron Beynon lives in West Wales. His work has appeared in several publications including Agenda, London Magazine, Plainsongs, Chiron Review, Poetry Wales, Cyphers and the human rights anthology In Protest (University of London and Keats House Poets).  Collections include Cuffs (Rack Press), The Echoing Coastline (Agenda Editions). His selected poems appeared in 2018 (Bilingual: English/Romanian – published by Bibliotecha Universalis/Collectiile/ Revistei “Orizont Literar Contemporan”, translations by Dr Monica Manolachi, University of Bucharest).”