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Dylan Thomas, what does this name that conjure up for you? An immediate memory of Wales, of prose that sings, of adjectives that forever-more belong together? Or is it of Christmas, specifically his magical memoir ‘A Child’s Christmas in Wales’.
If you’ve not read it, do. And if you have, go and read it again. Take some time out and allow yourself to slip-sink away to a magical land where Christmas is warm-wrapped around you like a Welsh blanket. You’ll not regret it.
But what makes it so special, this most comforting of Christmas tales?
Is it the way all our favourite Christmas memories are woven together into one timeless thread?
Is it because of the smile that spills out as you recall how your usually-unusual family feast together. Is it the mention of the snowballs or the ‘irreligious snow’ draped over the ‘harp-shaped hills’. Whatever it is, it’s a lovely thing. It encapsulates the magical innocence of childhood and makes us feel good at a time that can be overwhelming at best.
If you own a copy then reading it out loud has to be the way to go, otherwise you can listen to the poet himself reading it here, shortly before his death in 1954.
Dylan Thomas follows in the long tradition of Welsh poets dating back to the sixth century. His work opens the door to the otherworld of Welsh Literature. And although he wrote in English, the way his words sing on a page is unmistakenly Welsh and this genius is what sets him apart from other poets writing in English.
The craft of Welsh language poetry revolves around the art of Cynhangedd. An intricate internal web of strict alliteration, accent and rhyme. It remains the most revered of art forms in modern day Cymru, celebrated annually at Eisteddfods all over Wales. Cynghanedd done well lifts words effortlessly to another place. That poetry is lost in translation is so true but reading Dylan Thomas does allow the non-Welsh speaker a glimpse into this heady Welsh world of words.
“He read. He listened. He wrote. What he read was the work of the greatest writers, what he heard was the lilt and vitality of the word music of west Wales, his English mediated by the pulse made by that other drum, Welsh, beating in the syntax and the sound. Uniquely mingling both made him an original.” Gillian Clarke.
If you fancy gifting some of his books this Christmas there is plenty of time to buy direct from the Dylan Thomas Centre in Abertawe here.