The Muse

(An International Journal of Poetry)

Volume-1                                          June-2011                                                        Number-1

 

 

 

''The Welsh-poppy flame of the sun''

A Tribute to Raymond Garlick  (1926 - 2011 )

by Byron Beynon

 

 

Raymond Garlick, who died in Cardiff on March 19th was an important and influential figure in  support of Wales and Welsh writing in English. Significant achievements as 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 R S Thomas.I was a teenager when he tutored me at Trinity College, Carmarthen, he introduced me to the works of David Jones, Idris Davies, Glyn Jones, R S Thomas, Dylan Thomas, Alun Lewis,

John Ormond and  Leslie Norris; listening to him speak about these writers was an inspirational and illuminating experience. I will miss the conversations and meetings we had 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 (I have over a hundred) the earliest dating back to 1978.

His fascinating recollections of other writers such as Dylan Thomas, whom he met a month or so before his death in 1953, and who he described to me as gentle, modest, humble, a

dedicated poet, or when in 1978 RS Thomas stayed with him for a couple of days, and gave a superb reading to an audience of perhaps 300 in the new town library. 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.

 

He was conscious of how fortunate he had been to have known two major writers (RS Thomas and John Cowper Powys) and been enriched by their friendship and 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 in Lammas Street. He hoped one day that a plaque would be put up to commemorate the Druid Press, adding that not every town sees the launch of a book by two great writers.

Garlick was fascinated by the shape and appearance of letters, words, handwriting, carved and engraved inscriptions, samplers, alphabets, so it came as no surprise that the cover image of

his  Collected Poems was an alphabet by Eric Gill, and carved by Lawrence Cribb. I was with him in 1987 when a phone call from his publisher informed him that the book was

ready for him to collect at their office in Carmarthen.

 

As a child growing up in north-west London he spent holiday visits at his grandparents' house in the village of Deganwy, it was there that a sense of place and freedom was awakened in him.

It eventually brought about a commitment towards Wales, London suburbia was not for him. At eighteen his dream of attending Bangor University was realised. There he was able to enjoy

not only the north Wales landscape but he also met such distinguished men as Sir Emrys Evans, Sir Ifor Williams whose life's work was the editing of early Welsh poetry, and Sir Edward Lloyd.

New friendships therefore, and later on teaching appointments at Pembroke Dock and in 1954 at Blaenau Ffestiniog brought fresh stimuli to his writing and enabled him to meet writers of the calibre of Roland Mathias and John Cowper Powys.

 

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. He was also to edit the anthology Anglo-Welsh Poetry 1480-1980 with Roland

Mathias.

 

Reading through his poems gives one a sense of pleasure; the elegance of  form, the style and structure are all there, richly tuned words, skilfully conducted. A man of elegant qualities and

skills who played a central role in the advancement of Welsh literature in English.

 

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 poem “August Country”

 

 

“That's what Wales was, for me

as a child, an Edward Thomas land

of holidays, the blood's tree

warm with nightingales; the span of sand

a fortnight in year's infinity.” 

 

 

 

For further reading: by Raymond Garlick

 

A  Sense of Europe (Gomer 1968)

A Sense of Time (Gomer 1972)

Incense (Gomer 1976)

Collected Poems (1946-1986) (Gomer 1987)

Travel Notes (Gomer 1992)

 

R.S. Thomas: Letters to Raymond Garlick 1951 – 1999 (Gomer 2009)

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 Writers of Wales Series (University of Wales Press 1996)

Optimism and Life-force: an Interview with Raymond Garlick (Roundyhouse Issue 15 December 2004)

 

Anglo-Welsh Literature by Raymond Garlick (Alun Books) republished in Roundyhouse Issue 15