An appalling affair! – An early critique of Dylan’s ‘New Verse’

Amongst the discarded cigarette packets, empty sweet wrappers and manuscripts underneath Dylan’s desk here at 5 Cwmdonkin Drive you will find a book that had upset Dylan in December 1934.

Published by Duckworth in late 1934, Aspects of Modern Poetry by Edith Sitwell was savagely critical of New Verse, a periodical ran by poet, novelist and critic Geoffrey Grigson. In her scathing review she used Dylan’s poem Our Eunoch Dreams, which had been published in New Verse in April 1934 as one of its bad examples. As an added insult she didn’t even mention the author of the piece by name!

She wrote…

‘An appalling affair! Metaphysics have not helped here. The idea is really of no importance, and the thick squelching, cloying, muddy substance of the “which,” “itch,” “shapes,” “starch,” “welshing rich” verse, and the equally, or almost equally hideous, “kicks,” “sack,” “trash,” “quick,” “cock,” “back,” “smack,” affair – these defeat criticism. In muddiness and incapacity, they leave T.E. Brown’s “God wot plot” arrangement at the starting post.’

Dylan wrote the following in a letter dated December 1934 to his friend and fellow writer and poet Glyn Jones

“So you’ve been reviewing Edith Sitwell’s latest piece of virgin dung, have you? Isn’t she a poisonous thing of a woman, lying, concealing, flipping, plagiarising, misquoting, and being as clever a crooked literary publicist as ever. I do hope you pointed out in your review the real points against the book (you did, I know, but I like being dogmatic) The majority of the book was cribbed from Herbert Read and Leavis, actually and criminally cribbed. She has misquoted Hopkins at least twenty times, reprinted many poems without the permission of the publisher or poet. Yes, that was my poem all right, reproduced without my name, misquoted at the end, and absurdly criticised. I duly sent my protest to Gerald Duckworth and he replied to the effect that so many protests of a similar sort had been received, that he could as yet do nothing about it. It is being hoped that he will have to withdraw the book.”

In less that a few months Dylan and Sitwell would change their respective tunes about one another. Fierce critic and fellow poet Edith Sitwell would become a patroness and champion of the young poet from Swansea…

Take a look at our website for details on how you can create your own unique experiences including tours, overnight stays and dining experiences at the home of Dylan Thomas, Wales’ most renowned writer!

Published in: on 31 December, 2016 at 11:43 am  Leave a Comment  
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This Christmas – Give the gift to create unique memories…

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This Christmas why not treat the ones that you love to a voucher entitling them to an overnight stay, dinner party, lunch or afternoon tea at the home of one of the 20th century’s most famous literary figures, Wales’ most renowned writer – Dylan Thomas.

Dylan Thomas Birthplace & Family Home is available for visiting, self-catering and dining experiences throughout the year. A truly unique literary house where you and your friends and family can create your own wonderful personal memories.

Whether No.5 is the voucher recipient’s homely Edwardian hub to relax, dine on the best food that the local area has to offer and unwind in, immerse themselves in the World of their favourite writer, or used as a base to explore the rugged and beautiful Gower coastline. It is one magical experience that they will never forget!

Don’t worry about postal strikes affecting delivery times – we’ll also send an electronic version so there is no risk of disappointment on Christmas day!

For more information please call us on
(01792) 472 555 or email

Take a look at our website for details on how you can create your own unique experiences including tours, overnight stays and dining experiences at the home of Dylan Thomas, Wales’ most renowned writer!

On this date…18th December 1934

Dylan Thomas’s first collection of poems 18 Poems was published. Seen here on Dylan’s desk is a ‘true’ first edition, first issue, first printing of his life changing book. It had finally come to fruition from many years of meticulous craft and hard work from the surroundings of his tiny bedroom and Father’s study and was about to set him on his course as one of the greatest poet’s of the twentieth century.


Dylan however, would have to wait until January to read the first of a steady stream of encouraging reviews..

1934 had been a busy year for Dylan Thomas, his work being accepted and published in The New English Weekly,  Adelphi, New Verse, John O’London’s Weekly, New Stories, The Bookman, Criterion, and the BBC’s Listener. One of Dylan’s key admirers and regular publishers was ‘The Sunday Referee.’

How the ’18 Poems’ came to be….
The Sunday Referee had launched their ‘Poets Corner’ feature in April 1933 inviting contributions with the line of ‘We care nothing who holds the stylus’. A deluge of poems would flood into the Referee and tasked with selection was literary journalist Victor Neuberg. On September 3rd 1933 he selected Dylan’s That Sanity Be Kept and described it as ‘the best modernist poem as yet I have received.’ On October 29th 1933 he also published Dylan’s The Force That Through The Green Fuse and called it ‘cosmic in outlook….a large poem, greatly expressed. Dylan became a staple poet of the Referee in 1934 with a further five poems crafted by the young man from Swansea featuring in the publication.

As a result of the adulation of Dylan’s poetry from Neuberg and the editor Mark Goulden it was decided that the young poet from Swansea would have a collection sponsored by the newspaper. Dylan was to be the second in what the Sunday Referee envisioned to be a long line of prize poets. The first was a young lady from the London upper middle classes, Pamela Hansford Johnson. Dylan and Pamela had struck up a correspondence after his poem from 3rd September had been printed.

Publication of the book had been a drawn out affair with the Referee newspaper encountering difficulty finding a commercial publisher for it. Eventually David Archer of the Parton Bookshop, a young man with a love of poetry, who owned a bookshop and occasionally printed books agreed to help. Above all, David Archer had a desire to help young poets succeed. It was finally published on 18th December 1934. 500 copies of the book were produced with only 250 of them being bound at the time of publication. The cost of the book was 2s.6d. The book was published as a joint effort with The Sunday Referee periodical and the Parton Bookshop sharing the printing costs. The Referee provided £30 and the Parton Bookshop £20

*What happened to the other 250 unbound copies of the book? They were bound up and made available on February 21, 1936 and made up the second issue of the book*

18 Poems consists of…
I see the boys of summer
Where once the twilight locks
A process in the weather of the heart
Before I knocked
The force that through the green fuse
My hero bares his nerves
Where once the waters of your face
If I were tickled by the rub of love
Our eunuch dreams
Especially when the October wind
When, like a running grave
From love’s first fever
In the beginning
Light breaks where no sun shines
I fellowed sleep
I dreamed my genesis
My world is pyramid
All all and all

Take a look at our website for details on how you can create your own unique experiences including tours, overnight stays and dining experiences at the home of Dylan Thomas, Wales’ most renowned writer!

Dylan Thomas on the Wales Coastal Walk

The launch this year of the completed Wales Coastal Path has produced a new book by Jon Gower as well as numerous newspaper articles. One in Mr Murdoch’s flagship Sunday paper described Dylan as a “…drunkard and sometime poet…” which just displayed the ignorance  of the media who would not want the truth to get in the way of a good story.

The online Guardian has an audio slideshow which has a great piece about Number 5 and the Boathouse at Laugharne featuring the voices of Anne Haden and Jon Tregenna. However, there is nothing about the walks which are on a separate link or pictures of the stunning coastal scenery between the two! It’s still worth a look online

Climate Change in Verse

If you have a concern about Climate Change and a love of poetry then the Pontardawe Arts Centre was the place to be in early June 2012 for And This is Global Warming with readings from Elin ap Hywel, Sue Richardson, Dafydd Wyn, Emily Hinshelwood and the winners of Awel Aman Tawe’s Climate Change Poetry Competition.

Sue Richardson was at the Dylan Thomas Birthplace last October for the International Festival of Words. She draws on her experiences in some of the colder parts of the world and is passionate about climate change and how it is affecting the world.

There is no charge for entry but advisable to reserve tickets on 01792 863722

Published in: on 22 May, 2012 at 9:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Tony hatches a new book

Dylan Thomas once, when describing A Visit to America,  referred to the list of visiting lecturers to include “…fat poets with slim volumes…”. Tony Webb is a well built man and his first book of poems, lyrics and short stories – Down a Sparrow Lane – is certainly fatter than Dylan’s 18 Poems.

Nonetheless it is a delightful read which draws on his past and particularly his years of growing up in the east of Swansea. The book launch at the Brunswick in Swansea was a memorable evening of music, readings and laughter. All the better for the introduction by poet Malcolm Parr being half way through the evening on account of him disappearing to the loo.

Tony is perhaps better known as the front man for the Swansea folk/rock band Sparrow Lane and the book contains a number of lyrics to songs that he has written. The short stories include He Only Swore in Welsh which tells of his early life living close to his grandfather.

Unlike Dylan’s obtuse early poems Tony’s are easy to understand and are drawn from a lifetime living in Swansea.

Even his adventures further afield as in London, New Year’s Eve convince him there is no place like home. And home is not all roses – The Boy in the Subway is a tale of our time – sad and haunting.

Tony will be appearing at the Dylan Thomas Birthplace in October – don’t miss it!

Down a Sparrow Lane is available at Uplands Bookshop and from the author of the publishers Pinewood Press priced just £6

New Dylan book with Birthplace Connections

Jim Parc Nest records the CD insert for A Map of Love by Jackie HaydenRecording the CD insert of A Map of Love at 5 Cwmdonkin DriveNew books about Dylan come along and fairly regular intervals but not many boast a CD insert recorded in the bedroom of Number 5 where Dylan was born on 27th October 1914.

In fact The Map of Love – around Wales with Dylan Thomas by Jackie Hayden is unique in this respect. Even more unique is that the narrator is the Archdruid of Wales – Jim Parc Nest. The book provides little in the way of new information apart from an interview with Frank Jenkins who lived in Laugharne and went to school with Dylan’s daughter Aeronwy. His father had a mobile fish and chip van built on a Rolls Royce which featured in Dylan’s poem ‘Laugharne’

The book is written by Irishman Jackie Hayden (no relation to Geoff and Anne Haden who restored Number 5) who signed U2 when a Sony Record executive and is now an author and broadcaster who has been drawn back to Wales by the magnet that is Dylan. This shows in the chapter Dylan in Music which  illustrates the range of musicians that Dylan influenced.

The Map of Love – around Wales with Dylan Thomas is published by Iconau in collaboration with Fflach and costs £9.99

Published in: on 7 May, 2012 at 9:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Summer Drama Workshops

Writing Drama Workshops are designed for new and aspiring writers and take place at Number 5 as part of the Seventh Quarry Festival. On 25th August (10.00am to 2.00pm) international drama writers and tutors John Dotson, Lynda Maroski and Peter Thabit Jones will lead the courses. Demand will be high so booking is essential £20/£15 concessions. Further details

Red Carpet Film Premiere at Number 5

A new short film – The Poet – by student film maker Hanna Brustad – has its premiere on 11th May (7.30pm – free entry but bring a bottle) at 5 Cwmdonkin Drive – the house in which it was filmed. The film is a story of a poet in the 1930s who makes a life changing decision. Find out more

Published in: on 6 May, 2012 at 10:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Poets from a Hundred Lawns – poetry group

Poets from a Hundred Lawns is the new poetry group at the Dylan Thomas Birthplace which meets on the middle Wednesday of each month (next meetings 13th June/ 18th July 7.30pm). The group is a Stanza of The Poetry Society and carries on the tradition of Wednesday evening gatherings that the teenage Dylan started with his father’s encouragement back in the Roaring Twenties. Further information and contact details