Dylan Thomas made a dramatic impact on the literary world when his first collection of poetry, with the unassuming title 18 Poems, appeared in December of 1934, when he was only twenty years old. Although he had published a few poems in literary magazines during the previous year, Thomas was basically an unknown figure. From the beginning, he was a controversial poet. Not part of the conventional literary establishment, unconnected with any particular poetic movement, his work was difficult to categorize. Although Thomas's poems received critical acclaim for the force and vitality of their language and imagery, he was also criticized for obscurity. Because of this, he was often identified with the Surrealist movement, where images and language violated the rules of logic, frequently imitating the landscape of dreams, or even nightmares. On the surface, Thomas seems to have much in common with Surrealism; however, he vehemently denied the relationship, insisting that his poetry was carefully planned and controlled. Thomas fully intended his images to be understood. Unfortunately for the reader, the intensely personal nature of many of his metaphors makes this difficult.
"The Force That through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower," one of the most popular and least obscure of the poems in the collection, illustrates both the vivid language and the complex, powerful, but often confusing imagery. While it is easy to get caught up in the rhythm and drama of the language, it is far more difficult to unravel meaning. On its most basic level, however, the poem describes the cycle of life and death, noting that creation and destruction are part of the same process, both for man and for nature. Each stanza presents the flow of time moving to its inexorable conclusion.