Dylan Thomas - Poetry

Dylan Thomas, Poetry and Prose

Swansea would seem to have developed a love/hate relationship with one of it’s most famous sons. In the cafe’s, book shop’s and pub’s he is decried by some as a drunkard and a bad husband... for some an even bigger insult to hurl at him is that he was always broke and didn’t pay his bills!!

But for me these are stereotypes which are at their greatest extent unfair and at their least misleading.

Then of course, there are others who love his work, who defend him to the hilt in the cafes, book shops and pubs.  Those who see him as the best writer ever to come out of Wales.

I’m one of them...

Swansea may appear not to have woken up to the full potential that comes from having Dylan Thomas as one of it’s most famous sons and for me it makes it an even better place to come and discover where he was born and brought up first hand.  Why? You may ask.  Because you will not find tacky, plastic, Dylan Thomas key rings being sold in every shop, you will not find him exploited at every turn with pubs, streets, buildings and even airports named after him.

What you will find... in most places... is a quiet pride and a detailed knowledge of his work and life.

To most his poetry can be dense and difficult, academically and poetically brilliant but sometimes a little bit of a struggle to fathom.

To those I would point in the direction of his play, short stories and reminiscences as a starting point.  

The personalities depicted in Under Milk wood (1954), A Child’s Christmas in Wales (1955) Adventures in the Skin Trade and Other Stories (1955) and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog (1940) are all still here in Swansea, walking around the city centre, running bakeries, newsagents and propping up bars.  The Reverend Eli Jenkins, Gossamer Beynon, Captain Cat, Rosie Probert, Mr Mog Edwards all swim in my sub-conscious and before my eyes appear at the bus stop or in the butcher’s.  There’s many a time I’ve eavesdropped in on a conversation and wanted to immediately write it down and rush home to discover from which Dylan Thomas sketch the people I was listening to were reciting.  At these times I’ve frequently laughed out loud and been scolded by look’s of distain.

If Dylan’s characters come to life in his written work then they live and breathe before your very eyes through his play Under Milk Wood.  Please see this play, or even better, listen to it via it’s original medium, the airwaves.

 

Having started with his pose you may wish to delve into his poetry and Deaths and Entrances (1946), In Country Sleep (1951) and Collected Poems, 1934-1953 (1953) would all prove fruitful reading.  For me these books contain some of his finest work.  “Fern Hill”, (Deaths and Entrances) and "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night," (In Country Sleep) being my favourite poems.

Having pilloried his earlier work by tagging it as “dense and difficult, academically and poetically brilliant but sometimes a little bit of a struggle to fathom” let me contradict myself by asking you... no begging you to read Eighteen Poems (1934),  Twenty-five Poems (1936) and The Map of Love (1939). 

I will then look out for you at the bus stop or in the butcher’s... eavesdropping like me and smiling at the locals.

 

Jed Walsh
27/02/12

 

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