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Dylan Thomas - 50th Anniversary of the Poet's Death
June 18, 2003 4:49 AM   Subscribe

And death shall have no dominion.
Dead men naked they shall be one
With the man in the wind and the west moon;
When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
Though they go mad they shall be sane,
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.
Fifty years ago, Dylan Thomas - one of the greatest poets of our time - drank himself to death in New York's Hotel Chelsea at the age of 39. Swansea, his Welsh hometown, will be commemorating his life all year, culminating in a festival in the fall. [more]
posted by madamjujujive (58 comments total)

 
Audio files of poems read by Dylan Thomas
A selection of poems by Dylan Thomas

Selected anniversary events:
Diary of commemorative events planned for 2003
Map of Love - the anticipated release of a film about Dylan and his wife Caitlin produced by Mick Jagger.
Dylan at the Fringe - Guy Masterson, the nephew of Richard Burton will be staging Return Journey a Sir Anthony Hopkins-directed one-man show about Dylan Thomas on August 18 at this year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
posted by madamjujujive at 4:52 AM on June 18, 2003


There should be some sort of rule against putting poetry on the front page. It's boring, it looks rubbish, and the only points you needed to make could have been made without those first 8 lines of frankly tedious verse.

I like poetry, and I like discussions on poetry on metafilter, but can we cut down on the couplets and quatrains.
posted by seanyboy at 4:57 AM on June 18, 2003


And while I'm going, and I'm pissing people off. Just because we are talking about poetry is not an excuse for some old Metafilter Hack to post the entire lyrics of some Joni Mitchell song because they think that everybody needs to read it. Newsflash people - Links are good, Use them.
posted by seanyboy at 5:01 AM on June 18, 2003


He drank the fatal eighteen whiskies at the White Horse Tavern before returning to the Chelsea Hotel.
posted by liam at 5:12 AM on June 18, 2003


Metatalk : good for more than just pointless wanky chat!

My only Dylan Thomas story is in my user profile. Other than registering annoyance with seanyboy for so crudely derailing mjjj's post out of the gate, that's all I have to offer here.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:13 AM on June 18, 2003


I like poetry, and I like discussions on poetry on metafilter, but can we cut down on the couplets and quatrains.

I think an exception can probably be made here. Not least because he's possibly the greatest poet that ever lived.

Thanks for the audio links, by the way, I hadn't seen those before.
posted by zygoticmynci at 5:15 AM on June 18, 2003


STWC: You're right of course. An unnatural burst of anger there. No thread derailing intended. I suppose I should make some amends by pointing out news about his death and the upcoming festival to commemorate this, and a link detailing his life.
posted by seanyboy at 5:20 AM on June 18, 2003


and you could drink these 18 whiskeys i've so graciously bought you.
posted by quonsar at 5:28 AM on June 18, 2003


The world premiere of a show called Toast will be performed on a stepladder and No Room On Top, a comedy show, can be seen in a double decker bus.

woohoo ! here comes the fringe !
great stuff juju , i didnt realise thomas had this big accent like albert finneys in the dresser ...i thought he woulda sounded like this quiet wee welshman..
posted by sgt.serenity at 5:45 AM on June 18, 2003


The White Horse is only a few blocks away from where I sit right now. Perhaps I shall stop in and have a whiskey in Thomas' honor.
posted by jonmc at 6:06 AM on June 18, 2003


And poetry shall have no dominion.
Front page naked it shall be one
With the posts in the wind and the west sidebar;
When their pages are picked clean and the clean links gone,
They shall have stars at Stan Chin and Shadowkeeper;
Though they go mad they shall be sane,
Though they sink through Metatalk they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And poetry shall have no dominion.
posted by walrus at 6:11 AM on June 18, 2003 [1 favorite]


ps jon, I will see you down the White Horse. Metaphorically, that is. Bushmills for preference.
posted by walrus at 6:12 AM on June 18, 2003


MJJ, I really appreciate your posting that poetry...I'd never read that one (woefully uneducated-unless you count T.S. Elliot.)
posted by konolia at 6:35 AM on June 18, 2003


I've been the White Horse Tavern on a Dylan Thomas pilgrimage. They do nice margaritas.
posted by Summer at 6:39 AM on June 18, 2003


Oh yes, and my favourite Dylan Thomas poem, possibly one of my favourite of all time, Poem in October.
posted by Summer at 6:55 AM on June 18, 2003


The Stravinsky household had a room ready for him in California as he and Igor were going to collaborate on an opera. Thomas died before he would get there. In grieving, Stravinsky wrote "In Memoriam Dylan Thomas".
posted by mblandi at 6:58 AM on June 18, 2003


coincidentally an old friend of mine from school works at Swansea University and I have been told he is now one of the worlds leading experts on Dylan Thomas, so I guess he'll be busy this year.
posted by Frasermoo at 7:02 AM on June 18, 2003


I had forgotten the subject of the would-be opera: "In May 1953 Stravinsky had met Dylan Thomas in New York and they had discussed an operatic collaboration based on Thomas's idea of a rebirth of language and myth after the near-destruction of humanity in a nuclear war." (New Grove)
posted by mblandi at 7:05 AM on June 18, 2003


drank himself to death in New York's Hotel Chelsea at the age of 39.

I'm curious: Have there been any "serious" artists in the past hundred years who weren't degenerates?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:20 AM on June 18, 2003


Thomas's idea of a rebirth of language and myth after the near-destruction of humanity in a nuclear war

bit like terminator 3 then .
posted by sgt.serenity at 7:29 AM on June 18, 2003


Salon premium members can download all sorts of Dylan Thomas audio, including my personal fave, the radio play Under Milkwood (with Thomas in the cast).
posted by shoepal at 7:30 AM on June 18, 2003


Have there been any "serious" artists in the past hundred years who weren't degenerates?

TS Eliot wasn't particularly degenerate - an anti-semitic scumbag, but nicely tuned out, religious and used to work in a bank. My gran would've liked him.

Dylan Thomas knocked me out when I was introduced to how work by an inspirational English teacher at school. "Heads of the characters hammer through daisies" is my favourite line - never fails to conjure up surreal images in my mind's eye.

I've got a very nice CD of ex-velvet underground John Cale (a fellow welshman) singing some Dylan Thomas poetry to music composed by Cale and played by the Moscow Philharmonic orchestra - Words for the Dying


posted by Pericles at 7:40 AM on June 18, 2003


IMO, honoring someones life by partaking in that which killed them is bizarre. I realize this is a common practice but I find it disturbing.
posted by anathema at 8:31 AM on June 18, 2003


Cool post. That's all.
posted by xmutex at 8:31 AM on June 18, 2003


I had lived around the corner from the White Horse and though I never ran into Thomas there I did meet Tom Clancy (irish folk music) and my now ex-wife--moral easy on the drinks.

I did hear Thomas live, twice, at the Univ. of Connecticut, where he was brought there by John Malcolm Brinin, the poet/teacher who arranged his American visits . Thomas not only a big drinker but also an incredible womanizer.

Had Thomas nevver written a line of poetry he would have made a mark for his wonderful voice in reading his and the poetry of others...all of which is available on record.
Try thiws link for photos that accompany each line of the poem posted: http://crookedmuse.keenspace.com/death.html
posted by Postroad at 8:40 AM on June 18, 2003


IMO, honoring someones life by partaking in that which killed them is bizarre.

I think it has to do with celebrating the impulse and means to alter consciousness on the part of the creative personality in question. Also drinking whiskey is pleasurable. The annual Isadora Duncan autochoke-athon is less popular. Drinking eighteen whiskies would be in bad taste.
posted by liam at 8:48 AM on June 18, 2003


I have been to the White Horse on a Saturday night and while I understand his death wish, I don't see how he could possibly have found a bartender to actually take his order 18 times.
posted by ednopantz at 8:54 AM on June 18, 2003


There should be some sort of rule against putting poetry on the front page.

There should be a rule against the turd in a punchbowl syndrome but we're such a broad swatch of Oh, the humanity! here. The least offensive topic from the sweetest of posters can draw fire. There really is a disturbance in the Force here of late.

Similar to Pericles, my exposure to Dylan Thomas in high school was my first conscious taste of poetry, abeit in spite of rather, than thanks to, all the soul killing golems called English teachers.

Now I have to go chew some more garlic. Wereposters and metavampires, indeed.

Thanks, madamejujujive.
posted by y2karl at 8:56 AM on June 18, 2003


Have there been any "serious" artists in the past hundred years who weren't degenerates?

Flannery O'Connor? Zora Neale Hurston? Mary Cassatt?

Hrm. Maybe just the male artists have all been degenerates.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 9:10 AM on June 18, 2003


ZenMasterThis: There have been some studies linking the so-called artistic temperament to mental illness, particularly manic depression. I haven't read Touched with Fire: Manic Depression and the Artistic Temperament, but I want to.
posted by xyzzy at 9:13 AM on June 18, 2003


The annual Isadora Duncan autochoke-athon is less popular.

heh.
posted by anathema at 9:22 AM on June 18, 2003


I have a double LP of Dylan Thomas reading poems, and his reading is so overluxurious and trembly it's like a comedy record. That's a compliment in my book, maybe not in yours. He's the first person I ever heard to pronounce "moon" with two syllables: "moo-win" (as in "when only the moo-win rrrages," in "In My Craft or Sullen Art"). All highly recommended stuff, the best Welsh music I know.
posted by argybarg at 9:30 AM on June 18, 2003


IMO, honoring someones life by partaking in that which killed them is bizarre.

You're right. I'm cancelling the ham sandwiches I ordered for my Mama Cass memorial luncheon.
posted by jonmc at 9:35 AM on June 18, 2003


and you could drink these 18 whiskeys i've so graciously bought you.
posted by quonsar at 8:28 AM EST on June 18


so well done.
posted by widdershins at 9:49 AM on June 18, 2003


Whenever I think of recorded poetry readings, I get a bit melancholy. Growing up, my mother used to play her Robert Service record whenever she and my father had a big argument. I guess Sam McGee and Dangerous Dan McGrew gave her consolation.
posted by debralee at 9:50 AM on June 18, 2003


IMO, honoring someones life by partaking in that which killed them is bizarre.

The annual Isadora Duncan autochoke-athon is less popular.

I'm cancelling the ham sandwiches I ordered for my Mama Cass memorial luncheon.


Anyone catch the last "eat speeding lead" event in Seattle commemorating Curt Cobain?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 10:12 AM on June 18, 2003


This is a great post. Thanks, madamjujujive. Non Carborundare Illegitimati.
posted by plep at 10:16 AM on June 18, 2003


The post's format, for those who know, is a reference to y2karl's classic, marvelous Yeats post.

Dylan Thomas is almost a case study of too much too young too carefree misspent talent.

Excellent as usual, madam.
posted by 111 at 10:34 AM on June 18, 2003


And for those who don't know, y2karl's classic, marvelous Yeats post is here—it's still probably my favorite MeFi post ever.
posted by languagehat at 10:57 AM on June 18, 2003


Have there been any "serious" artists in the past hundred years who weren't degenerates?

Der: G.G. Allin.
posted by yerfatma at 11:20 AM on June 18, 2003


great posting again, madamjujujive. thanks

ZenMasterThis - siegfried sassoon and wilfred owen are a couple that spring to mind.
posted by triv at 11:38 AM on June 18, 2003


languagehat, the celebrated y2karl yeats' post is among my favorites too, and 111, I might not have had the temerity post some but for his inspiration.

Wow, so many good links and interesting points made in this thread....argybarg, I laughed out loud at your riff on thomas's readings..."moo-win rrrages" - haha. Like the good sgt., I was surprised by his voice the first time I heard it, tho I don't know what I had expected..."overluxurious" is as good a description as I could think of.

I must confess that there are whole vast wide swaths of Thomas's work that leave me completely baffled as to the meaning, but I am so swept adrift and in love with the beauty of the language and the rich rhythm and sonorous quality that I am swept (spindrift?) along. And besides, there is something so satisfying to me about coming back to a work and getting more from it each time, rather like that difficult crossword that can't be finished in one sitting, but on future forays, the difficult corners seem to take shape.

Great pointers in thread. Postroad, thanks for sharing, I envy you the experience of having heard Thomas read his works, and think you must have many more great tales to tell. That link is beautiful. Pericles and xyzzy, your recommendations are both on my shopping list now. The theme of depression, manic depression, mood-altering excesses and the artistic drive - most interesting to me.

Gee, it would be fun to have a MeFi toast in the White Horse this aft! jonmc, several of us will be joining you in spirit.
posted by madamjujujive at 11:48 AM on June 18, 2003


Oh, and never one to leave a lily ungilded, I cannot resist posting excerpts from a few of my favorites:

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.
And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.

...and if this isn't one of the most delightful opening lines to a poem, then I don't know what is...
If I were tickled by the rub of love,
A rooking girl who stole me for her side,
Broke through her straws, breaking my bandaged string,
If the red tickle as the cattle calve
Still set to scratch a laughter from my lung,
I would not fear the apple nor the flood
Nor the bad blood of spring.

...and the lovely In My Craft or Sullen Art which is short, but perhaps too long to repost.
posted by madamjujujive at 12:00 PM on June 18, 2003


Thanks, once again, mjjj.

I came across Death Shall Have no Dominion, rather weirdly, as the epigraph to some SF paperback my father had lying around (something about an immortal guy whose blood could give you temporary immortality, also) and reading that language for the first time was an experience of actual physical shock--I didn't know that it was possible to use words in such a way. It was summer; we were at the beach, and I sat on the rope swing at Sandy Cove, swaying back and forth, repeating to myself "they shall have stars at elbow and foot, they shall have stars at elbow and foot" until I was called for lunch.

Experiences like that tend to make me cynical about pomo ideas of the uselessness of positioning texts as "good" or "bad". That language stood out for me like a lighthouse on a moonless night. Changed my life.
posted by jokeefe at 12:03 PM on June 18, 2003


I must confess that there are whole vast wide swaths of Thomas's work that leave me completely baffled as to the meaning, but I am so swept adrift and in love with the beauty of the language and the rich rhythm and sonorous quality that I am swept (spindrift?) along.

If this is the case then it appears that you are on par with just about everyone else who has read him. Thomas, like Joyce, was a modernist who tossed objectivity to the wind, writing tightly compressed, subjective works that burst with personal symbolism. His emphasis was on ultimate self-expression, not clear communication. In his poems, as in life, a wash of images comes first; meaning comes later, if at all. It is, to the modernist mind, as near as we will ever come to truly understanding another human being. I recall reading that over sixty pages of notes were devoted to the forty-line poem "Elegy." Likewise, Joyce spent what, ten years writing Finnegan's Wake; a book that few poeple in their right minds would attempt reading, and even fewer could possibly comprehend. But there it is.
posted by vraxoin at 12:27 PM on June 18, 2003


Absolutely beautiful, juju - a perfect post and a thread that rises up to it. Thank you so much!
posted by MiguelCardoso at 1:01 PM on June 18, 2003


Der: G.G. Allin.

Any particular incarnation?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 1:04 PM on June 18, 2003


Wonderful post, Madamjujujive
Several audio files here of the man himself...
posted by islander at 10:18 PM on June 18, 2003


Likewise, Joyce spent what, ten years writing Finnegan's Wake; a book that few people in their right minds would attempt reading, and even fewer could possibly comprehend.

Dhalgren comes to mind.
posted by y2karl at 10:32 PM on June 18, 2003


While we're on the subject of poetry (cos we so rarely are), a friend once told me that every Emily Dickinson poem could be sung to the tune of
"The Yellow Rose of Texas"
- a perfect example is "Because I could not stop for death".

While not true (only most poems fall into this category) I can't take her seriously at all now.

But then I only go for the mad (Ezra Pound), bad (TS Eliot) or dangerous-to-know (Dylan Thomas) poets myself.
posted by Pericles at 1:32 AM on June 19, 2003


Is this far enough down the thread to dispell any accusations of thread derailing?

The least offensive topic from the sweetest of posters can draw fire. There really is a disturbance in the Force here of late. The only issue I had was with 8 lines of verse as part of the FPP. The link at the bottom of the thread pointed to the poem, so the only reason to include the poem as part of the FPP was to force people to read it. The topic was fine, I just had a mild reaction to the format.

It's also good to know y2Karl, that apologies count for nothing. I make an inappropriate comment, get gently slapped back for it, apologise, and even then, all you want to do is make sarcastic 'turd in a punchbowl' comments. As you so rightly said - Oh, the humanity of it.

So, I've learnt my lesson. 8 lines of lyrics at the front of a first page post is GOOD. madamjujujive is sweet. posting poetry as part of your commentry is the right thing to do. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got a Cardoso (is that the right collective noun) of metafilter FPP's to create using nothing more than the words of famous people who have been dead for the last 49 years and about 6 months.
posted by seanyboy at 4:27 AM on June 19, 2003


seanyboy, I didn't think twice about the whole thing and you shouldn't either. Altho your comments might have fared better in MetaTalk, you have every right to express your opinion.

And as for y2karl's comments, have you thought they might have been intended more in kindness to me than in malice to you? That might be the case. I will take your advice to me under consideration if you will consider my advice not to post before you have had your morning coffee. Otherwise I might be forced to post the entire lyrics of Chelsea Morning some day just to try to lighten the mood. ;-)
posted by madamjujujive at 5:36 AM on June 19, 2003


:-)
posted by seanyboy at 5:38 AM on June 19, 2003


Really, she's got it right--I didn't mean to be picking on you. It's just that we're all a bunch of grouches lately, me included. It's from the stress of these polarized and interesting times in which we're living, I think.
posted by y2karl at 6:05 AM on June 19, 2003


Now hang on a sec! I should get royalties from using that excuse, Karl!

~cha-ching~
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:12 AM on June 19, 2003


aw, gee guys, let's all hug and do the joni mitchell happy dance!. Or we could all get soused which is more in keeping with the thread honoree.
posted by madamjujujive at 7:34 AM on June 19, 2003


I forgot this until now:

Thou Shalt Not Kill
A Memorial For Dylan THomas
Kenneth Rexroth


IV

He is dead.
The bird of Rhiannon.
He is dead.
In the winter of the heart.
He is Dead.
In the canyons of death,
They found him dumb at last,
In the blizzard of lies.
He never spoke again.
He died.
He is dead.
In their antiseptic hands,
He is dead.
The little spellbinder of Cader Idris.
He is dead.
The sparrow of Cardiff.
He is dead.
The canary of Swansea.
Who killed him?
Who killed the bright-headed bird?
You did, you son of a bitch.
You drowned him in your cocktail brain.
He fell down and died in your synthetic heart.
You killed him,
Oppenheimer the Million-Killer,
You killed him,
Einstein the Gray Eminence.
You killed him,
Havanahavana, with your Nobel Prize.
You killed him, General,
Through the proper channels.
You strangled him, Le Mouton,
With your mains étendues.
He confessed in open court to a pince-nezed skull.
You shot him in the back of the head
As he stumbled in the last cellar.
You killed him,
Benign Lady on the postage stamp.
He was found dead at a Liberal Weekly luncheon.
He was found dead on the cutting room floor.
He was found dead at a Time policy conference.
Henry Luce killed him with a telegram to the Pope.
Mademoiselle strangled him with a padded brassiere.
Old Possum sprinkled him with a tea ball.
After the wolves were done, the vaticides
Crawled off with his bowels to their classrooms and quarterlies.
When the news came over the radio
You personally rose up shouting, “Give us Barabbas!”
In your lonely crowd you swept over him.
Your custom-built brogans and your ballet slippers
Pummeled him to death in the gritty street.
You hit him with an album of Hindemith.
You stabbed him with stainless steel by Isamu Noguchi,
He is dead.
He is Dead.
Like Ignacio the bullfighter,
At four o’clock in the afternoon.
At precisely four o’clock.
I too do not want to hear it.
I too do not want to know it.
I want to run into the street,
Shouting, “Remember Vanzetti!”
I want to pour gasoline down your chimneys.
I want to blow up your galleries.
I want to bum down your editorial offices.
I want to slit the bellies of your frigid women.
I want to sink your sailboats and launches.
I want to strangle your children at their finger paintings.
I want to poison your Afghans and poodles.
He is dead, the little drunken cherub.
He is dead,
The effulgent tub thumper.
He is Dead.
The ever living birds are not singing
To the head of Bran.
The sea birds are still
Over Bardsey of Ten Thousand Saints.
The underground men are not singing
On their way to work.
There is a smell of blood
In the smell of the turf smoke.
They have struck him down,
The son of David ap Gwilym.
They have murdered him,
The Baby of Taliessin.
There he lies dead,
By the Iceberg of the United Nations.
There he lies sandbagged,
At the foot of the Statue of Liberty.
The Gulf Stream smells of blood
As it breaks on the sand of Iona
And the blue rocks of Canarvon.
And all the birds of the deep sea rise up
Over the luxury liners and scream,
“You killed him! You killed him.
In your God damned Brooks Brothers suit,
You son of a bitch.”
posted by y2karl at 12:49 AM on June 21, 2003 [1 favorite]


thanks for posting this y2karl - never saw it before... the main site that houses the Rexroth archive is pretty interesting too.
posted by madamjujujive at 10:24 PM on June 22, 2003


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