Skip to main content

Poetry Focus: Dylan Thomas

Eyewear is beginning a new occasional guest feature. Its Poetry Focus series of poets will showcase poets writing, in pithy prose on a poet that's meant something to them, and been, in some way, sidelined, undervalued, or even misread. It's an opportunity to correct the way we've been reading, and thinking, about "poet's poets", and other mavericks.

Dylan Thomas by Kate Noakes

In the pouring rain I tramp along the boat house lane, press my face against the window in the garage-turned-writing shed and squeeze in between the tongue and groove to breathe the same air, finger the crumpled paper and look out over Dylan’s heron-priested shore. Call it improbable, madness, love.

Disdained by some for his over-loaded language, Dylan is my first poetic hero. I was brought up on his breathless sentences, imaginative collective nouns, tightly observed stories and revelry with words. Language is what’s important, like these kennings:

‘………I, a spinning man,/glory to this star, bird/ roared, sea born, man torn, blood blest………’,[1]


‘And death shall have no dominion.
Dead men naked they shall be one
With the man in the wind and the west moon’[2]

and extended metaphors:

‘Over St, John’s hill,
The hawk on fire hangs still;
In a hoisted cloud, at drop of dusk, he pulls his claws
And gallows, up the rays of his eyes the small birds of the bay
And the shrill child’s play
Of the sparrows and such who swansing, dusk, in wrangling hedges
And blithely they squawk
To fiery tyburn over the wrestle of elms until
The flash of a noosed hawk
Crashes, and slowly the fishing holy stalking heron
In the river Towy below bows his tilted headstone.’[3]

"I write like Dylan Thomas" boasted one heckler at the Laugharne festival this year. I doubt that very much. Travestied, satirised, but never bettered, Dylan is the man and writer of the greatest villanelle.[4]

Hopefully the new film of his love-life will bring readers back to his work. The pity of it now is that there’s a phone mast over St. John’s hill.

[1] Prologue to 18 Poems
[2] "And death shall have no dominion"
[3] "Over St. John’s hill"
[4] "Do not go gentle into that good night"

Kate Noakes' first collection, Ocean to Interior, was published by Mighty Erudite Press in 2007. She runs Boomslang Poetry ( offering readings, workshops and an eponymous poetry magazine.
Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog


According to the latest CBS, ABC, etc, polls, Clinton is still likely to beat Trump - by percentile odds of 66% to 33% and change. But the current popular vote is much closer, probably tied with the error of margin, around 44% each. Trump has to win more key battleground states to win, and may not - but he is ahead in Florida...

We will all know, in a week, whether we live in a world gone madder, or just relatively mad.

While it seems likely calmer heads will prevail, the recent Brexit win shows that polls can mislead, especially when one of the options is considered a bit embarrassing, rude or even racist - and Trump qualifies for these, at least.

If 42-45% of Americans admit they would vote for Trump, what does that say about the ones not so vocal? For surely, they must be there, as well. Some of the undecided will slide, and more likely they will slide to the wilder and more exciting fringe candidate. As may the libertarians.

Eyewear predicts that Trump will just about manage to win th…


Like a crazed killer clown, whether we are thrilled, horrified, shocked, or angered (or all of these) by Donald Trump, we cannot claim to be rid of him just yet. He bestrides the world stage like a silverback gorilla (according to one British thug), or a bad analogy, but he is there, a figure, no longer of fun, but grave concern.

There has long been a history of misogynistic behaviour in American gangster culture - one thinks of the grapefruit in the face in The Public Enemy, or Sinatra throwing a woman out of his hotel room and later commenting he didn't realise there was a pool below to break her fall, or the polluted womb in Pacino'sScarface... and of course, some gangsta rap is also sexist.  American culture has a difficult way with handling the combined aspects of male power, and male privilege, that, especially in heteronormative capitalist enclaves, where money/pussy both become grabbable, reified objects and objectives (The Wolf of Wall Street for instance), an ugly fus…


The Oscars - Academy Awards officially - were once huge cultural events - in 1975, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr, Shirley MacLaineandBob Hope co-hosted, for example - and Best Picture noms included The Conversation and Chinatown. Godfather Part 2 won. Last two years, movies titled Birdman and Spotlight won, and the hosts and those films are retrospectively minor, trifling. This year, some important, resonant films are up for consideration - including Hidden Figures and Moonlight, two favourites of this blog. Viola Davis and Denzel Washington will hopefully win for their sterling performances in Fences. However, La La Land - the most superficial and empty Best Picture contender since Gigi in 1959 (which beat Vertigo) - could smite all comers, and render this year's awards historically trivial, even idiotic.

The Oscars often opt for safe, optimistic films, or safe, pessimistic films, that are usually about white men (less often, white women) finding their path to doing the right thin…