Poetically, Dannie Abse owes allegiance to no particular school. A humanist, his tendency is to explore complex philosophical themes through things visible and comprehensible in daily existence. At the beginning of his career, he was strongly influenced by the work of Dylan Thomas. Later, however, he moved away from the mode of adjectival and rhetorical excess that was Thomas’s hallmark to a quieter, more questioning style of writing. Drawing on his professional life for incident metaphor, he acquired his own poetic style, easily recognized by the student of modern poetry. His voice is gentle, never strident; the personality that emerges from the writing is endearing, not irritating. He expresses ideas that occur to all but not everyone has the ability to voice.
In the “Introductory Note” to Collected Poems, 1948-1976, Abse briefly outlines some of the impulses that motivate his writing and makes it clear that one of his strongest motivations is his desire to share the wealth of his experiences with the reader. There is a strand of humanism in his work, reinforced by his obvious belief that in communication lies humankind’s hope of salvation. Over and over again, his poetry stresses all people’s common humanity and the vulnerability of each person without the support and understanding of his or her fellows. Paradoxically, however, Abse also states that one of his ambitions is “to write poems which appear translucent but are in fact...
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