How does Dylan Thomas use imagery in his poems?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Much of the acclaim that is given to Dylan Thomas is attributable to his marvelous use of imagery that awakens the senses of the listener/reader of his poetry and lends a unique reality to his abstraction of thought. Clearly, there is a vitality and passion lent to his verse with his imagery. One critic writes of Thomas, "His rich rhetoric and imagery gave his poetry a magical touch."

Thomas is especially renowned for his use of nature imagery as in such poems as "A Winter's Tale" in which the image of the bird connotes the Holy Ghost or Pentescostal Dove that imparts powers to the individual.  In addition, there is a connection of the spiritual with the physical and the bird undergoes a metamorphosis in the bride's body that rises with him in spirituality.  Regarding such imagery that combines contradictions such as that of the bird and the bride, Thomas writes,

Out of the inevitable conflict of images--inevitable, because of the creative, destructive, and contradictory nature of the motivating centre, the womb of war--I try to make that momentary peace which is a poem.

Another nature poem replete with imagery is "Poem in October."  On his thirtieth birthday the speaker emerges from the limits of the town, he finds that nature greets him with herons as priests and the waves of the ocean standing to honor him.  In short, through the honor of nature and its imagery, the speaker transcends the mundane and rises to an ethereal joy. 

Thomas also employs images of death in many of his poems, the most famous of which is "Do Not Go Gentle Into the Night" in which death is portrayed as "the dying of the light" and "darkness." The anger and rage expressed toward these images denotes the poet's passion for life. In this poem and in all his works, certainly Thomas's artistic and original utilization of imagery is his greatest medium for meaning.

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