Introduced by Owen Sheers
This edition, published to mark the centenary of Dylan Thomas’s birth, includes poems from all five of his collected works, as well as the unfinished, ‘Elegy’.
Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea.
Dylan Thomas was a true literary star, and Wales’s greatest 20th-century poet. During his short life he was internationally celebrated and scrutinised, his fame and lifestyle precursors to the rock and roll excesses of the Beat Generation that followed. But at the heart of this celebrity status was a vast poetic talent. From 1934—53, Thomas composed some of the most memorable, quoted and cherished verse of the modern era. This edition, published to mark the centenary of Thomas’s birth, includes selections from all five of his collected works: 18 Poems,Twentyfive Poems, The Map of Love, Deaths and Entrances and In Country Sleep, plus one further unfinished poem, ‘Elegy’.
Thomas’s verse is notoriously hard to define. Less narratively driven than that of his Romantic forebears, his poetry, very personal in style, drew on the natural, tactile rhythms of the Welsh language, the countryside where he grew up, and later the rugged coast around his home, the Boathouse, in the remote fishing village of Laugharne. As poet Owen Sheers writes in his introduction, he was ‘instinctive … gifted with a natural composer’s ear for the emotional penumbra of words’. Each line of verse is alive with Welsh oral tradition, pleading to be read aloud; the poems evoking the cycles of birth and death, both Thomas’s own and those of the people he loved.
Spanning Thomas’s entire career, and containing well-known works such as ‘Fern Hill’, ‘And death shall have no dominion’ and ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’, this Folio edition features endpapers showing his handwritten notes for ‘Prologue’. This elliptical poem originally formed the introduction to his 1952 Collected Poems. Black and white photographs of Thomas’s life and the landscape that inspired him accompany the text.
'Holding that book in my hands, it feels like something that will last forever.'
In the twenty years of his writing life Thomas was many things: a lyric poet, a scriptwriter, an actor, a performer, an author. When I think of him, though, it is as a poet of the sea, and even more specifically of the estuary at Laugharne, below the Boathouse where he lived, and the writing shed in which he wrote. The sea is ever present in Thomas’s poetry and so are its tides, pulling and washing through his poetry like a watery metronome. I said at the beginning of this introduction that there is a tendency for admirers of Thomas to leave him after the rush of their first intoxicating encounter. But, like those Carmarthenshire tides, there is an equal tendency to return to him. Because, whatever his faults and excesses, he is a poet who we need to have in our lives. A reminder of the nature of the human condition, stripped bare of intellectual masking. A reminder of the natural world, given voice with suitable drama and strange wonder. And a reminder that poetry has its roots in music, and always will.
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Review by anon on 1st Jul 2015
"Having searched many bookstores for Thomas' work, I finally came here. Worth the wait with excellent photography, pleasing type and a wonderful sensation holding the book. "