When Dylan Thomas died at the age of thirty-nine he was, for a poet in this century, extraordinarily popular. His poetry had been read and admired for years; a paean of praise greeted his collected works, and still more appreciation was accorded him after his death. However, many reputable critics, fellow poets, and general readers have disliked, derided, and dismissed his work on the grounds that it is merely sibylline raving. These contradictory reactions are explained by the fact that Thomas was primarily a violently emotional poet. The strength of his feelings thus either forcibly attracts or repels his readers.
The poems make an emotional impact, on first reading, that subsequent analyses will not displace. With the exception of Ezra Pound, Thomas is probably the most obscure of the great poets of this century. Whether he is a major or a minor poet will be established only by the evaluation of critics in the future, as no contemporary can have the necessary perspective to place a poet accurately in such a hierarchy. Undeniably, Dylan Thomas’ poetry is great in kind; to what degree, posterity will decide.
A poet who is both very obscure and very popular is an anomaly, but Thomas is not in this position by virtue of belonging to a particular school of verse, nor by writing in a recognized poetic convention. Nor is he socially or politically committed. His poetry is an affirmation of life: “These poems are written for the love of man and...
(The entire section is 1841 words.)
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