Hi everyone! We have a guest blogger for today’s poetics – Laura Bloomsbury.
Good morning Poets. Perhaps I am being premature with this piece as International Dylan Thomas Day is not until next month. Nevertheless, it is officially Spring now in the Northern Hemisphere, with all its stirring sights and sounds, and Dylan Thomas with his legendary visionary verses conveys these awakenings like a psalm: –
“Praise that the spring time is all
Gabriel and radiant shrubbery as the morning grows joyful
Out of the woebegone pyre”
Don’t you just love the words? Thomas certainly did: “my love for the real life of words increased until I knew that I must live with them and in them, always. I knew, in fact, that I must be a writer of words, and nothing else”.
Any cursory reading of both his poetry and prose suggests that logophilia was the lodestar that guided him through his relatively short but productive literary life:
“I could never have dreamt that there were such goings-on
in the world between the covers of books,
such sandstorms and ice blasts of words,
such staggering peace, such enormous laughter,
such and so many blinding bright lights,
splashing all over the pages
in a million bits and pieces
all of which were words, words, words,
and each of which were alive forever
in its own delight and glory and oddity and light”.
Notes on the Art of Poetry (1951)
But as logophile, his were not just inky words for silent readers but rather singing, dancing lyrical chorus lines. He wrote poetry to be heard, and via the listener’s ears, to be seen (hence the reading tours – though he declaimed in very English pulpit tones rather than the lyrical Welsh tongue of readers like Richard Burton).
‘The roaring boyo’ was certainly heard- but not always understood – for comprehension of meaning was not Thomas’ primary concern, not least because his allusive strategies were often elusive and abstruse. Where he does not seem to make sense, we can still relish the sparkling sound and imagery.
The auditory dictum that Dylan Thomas held to is evident in his written criticism of contemporary poetry:
“‘The Death of the Ear’ would be an apt subtitle for a book on the plight of modern poetry Too much poetry to-day is flat on the page, a black and white thing of words created by intelligences that no longer think it necessary for a poem to be read and understood by anything but the eyes.” (The Adelphi 1934)
What then were the literary methods Dylan Thomas utilised to make us use our ears? In short, sounds! A fair sprinkling of onomatopoeia mixed in with assonance and consonance, invariably laid across a sprung rhythm (random bouncing beats that trip off the tongue).
“Because the pleasure-bird whistles after the hot wires,
Shall the blind horse sing sweeter?
Convenient bird and beast lie lodged to suffer
The supper and knives of a mood.
In the sniffed and poured snow on the tip of the tongue of the year
That clouts the spittle like bubbles with broken rooms.”
But as well as these methods which make his poetry easy on the ear, we are jolted into attention by all the rare and glorified twists and turns of grammar. Technically Thomas uses: –
- Transferred epithet in which he liberates the predictable adjective and re-attaches it to another noun in the sentence – “the spellbound horses walking warm/Out of the whinnying green stable.” (Fern Hill)
- Verbing of nouns as well as the nouning of verbs, peppered with personification: “A slap of sea and a tickle of sand. A fanfare of sunshades opening. A wince and whinny of bathers dancing into deceptive water. (A Holiday Memory)
- And last but not least are the word compounds. Here I’ve selected just 25 of the 350 or so hyphenated word-coining he employed: –
BELL-VOICED CRADLE-PETALS DARK-VOWELLED DUST-TONGUED
FIRE-DWARFED GRAVE-GROPING HARE-HEELED HEAVEN-CIRCLING
LARK-HIGH MAP-BACKED MOON-BLOWN MUFFLE-TOED
OWL-LIGHT RINGED-SEA SCYTHE-EYED SHE-BIRD
TEAR-CULLED TIDE-LOOPED WATER-SPOKEN WHALE-WEED
For this Tuesday Poetics I’m asking you to write a poem using at least FOUR of the hyphenated compound words from the above list. Employ as little or as much of Thomas’ other methodologies too as but most of all, let’s love the words!
Once you have published your poem, add it in the linking widget down below and do not forget to visit and read others and share your thoughts with them. I wish you a wonderful way with words.
At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on March 7th, 1952, Dylan Thomas spoke on his poetry as well as his feelings towards poets and poetry as a whole. Listen to “A Few Words of a Kind”
Or thanks to Jason Kirin, who has has valiantly transcribed the whole speech, you can read it HERE
About our guest host:
I’m a latecomer to poetry writing though I’ve been reading and reciting from the poets since a small child. As psychotherapist (now retired) listening was all important and that has helped with hearing the how and what of poetry too. Even so, I resist rhyme lines and strict structure which is probably indicative of a rebellious nature, a lazy bone and a fear of small spaces!