Monday, 9 November 2009

In defence of Dylan Thomas

Today, this insect, and the world I breathe...

Today the free world celebrates the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. And Poet-in-Residence, having once been to the Checkpoint Charlie Museum (which is well worth a visit) joins with the spirit of the celebrations. It cannot be right that a wall divides communities, families and friends. But as Hillary Clinton reminds us, we should not forget that today there are other walls in the world, walls for people to hide behind.

Another thought that is in the public mind here in Austria, and over the River Inn in Germany, is that today is the 51st anniversary of the The Night of Broken Glass.
Kristallnacht as it was then called, was the signal for the long-prepared Nazi terror to begin; a terror that depended upon propaganda, false promises of better times to come, and re-education. The signs were: the children forced to spy on their parents, the replacement of schoolteachers with educators, the burning of the books, the terror in the universities, the banned authors, the idea of more living space (Lebensraum) for the chosen - the Herrenvolk, the spreading of fear (the spy next-door or in the place of work), all of which things and ideas led to the enslavement and eventual deaths of millions, mostly Russians, Slavs and Eastern Europeans, and of course to Hitler's Final Solution as far as the Jews were concerned. And so, Poet-in-Residence, as a member of the wider community of writers and poets, and a seeker after the truth, remembers all that too.

And now to the Swansea poet Dylan Thomas who died in New York on this day 56 years ago. He was on his fourth lecture tour of the USA.

In defence of Dylan Thomas

You should have waved goodbye
when they checked you
out of the Chelsea Hotel.

But no,
you strolled into a bar

and a coma.

Too many straight whiskies
they told me.

I think it's a record
they said
you had said -

your famous last words
into the mouth of a tumbler.

And death shall have no dominion.

And so dear Dylan,
you now have your stars
at elbow and foot
and will live in the sun
till the sun breaks down
and with the man in the wind
and the west moon.

Go then! Do as you like.
See if I don't care!
I said.

And you did
like I knew you would.

And now
here you are
dead as nails
and too soon gone.

And soon you will rest in peace
upon your soddin' hill
in Wales
behind the heron-priested bay
and the house-on-stilts
where the gulls will cry and wail
on the westerly wind
that makes the waves break loud
ever loud.

The waves from afar.

The waves
from the mad Manhattan

The waves



  1. I think this poem is excellent. It has so much power, beauty, warmth and anger.

    I have read it over and over. That does not happen too often; it takes such a poem to grab me.

  2. Thank you so much, Gordon. I wrote it one way and then I thought it's not packing the emotions I want and then I rewrote it from the standpoint of Caitlin going to NY for the body and then lo and behold there it was. Thanks again, Gwilym

  3. Great poem in praise of Dylan, Poet. Isn't it interesting to look at which things happened on a certain day.

  4. Thanks Weaver, here are some other things that happened on 9th November:
    1816 - Harriet Westbrook, Shelley's first wife, drowned herself in the Serpentine
    1918 - Guillaume Apollinaire died
    1934 - Liverpool poet Roger McGough was born

  5. I agree with GM - I've just sat here reading it outloud. It's both a good poem and a good piece of music.

  6. Dominic, many thanks

    strum a few notes around it then!!!

    straight into the Top 20

  7. wonderful poem and at the start - a little prod ...lest we forget

  8. Many thanks, John. Glad you like it.


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