Introduction

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Thomas, D(onald) M(ichael) 1935–

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Thomas is a British poet, editor, critic, and translator who is known for his early science fiction poetry. He has broadened his range of topics, although he focuses on what he considers to be core subjects, sex and death. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 61-64.)

Michael Mott

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Two Voices by D. M. Thomas is at least two collections in one. The confusion is made the worse by the intrusive cover-photographs, clichés of the 1930's avant garde, which would be plain ugly in any period.

The long science-fiction poems in the early part of the book have a sort of ghost-written effect, but the interest comes and goes. Things improve with a number of shorter poems like The Head-Rape, a horror poem, but at least a convincing one, still in the science-fiction genre, and Wolfbane, which ends in a masterly fashion, with the mind of the witchgirl "under him / turned away / loping / into snowy / darkness".

But it is the Requiem for Aberfan that makes this collection memorable. (pp. 113-14)

D. M. Thomas is, on the whole, scrupulous in allowing us to draw our own dark questions from the way in which he describes the disaster. The detail is vividly rendered. The cruel shock waves run out in all directions from the main center of violence. (p. 114)

Michael Mott, in Poetry (© 1971 by The Modern Poetry Association; reprinted by permission of the Editor of Poetry), May, 1971.

Alan Brownjohn

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Love and Other Deaths: you can take the choice. I don't feel that D. M. Thomas, a poet of ranging and fertile imagination, has yet settled for what he really wants, but at least [this] largish collection provides plenty to choose from. I'll take, not the sci-fi verse or mythological excursions which blend with it, but those compassionate, discerning, well-made poems 'of death and loss' which are closer to his personal concerns; especially 'Dream', and 'Reticent', about the gentle power of understatement on the lips of his dead parents. 'Dream' allows Thomas to use an experimental, disjointed form to excellent effect without dispersing the emotion in gimmickry; it is absolutely unforced, true and moving. (p. 60)

Alan Brownjohn, in New Statesman (© 1975 The Statesman & Nation Publishing Co. Ltd.), July 11, 1975.

Alasdair Maclean

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D. M. Thomas has divided [Love and Other Deaths] into parts. The first contains more or less traditional poems dealing with family deaths. Often moving and sometimes quite good as well, they partly redeem the horror that comes after. Even here,… obligatory modishness creeps in with its spoiling hand. In "Dream", for example, we get a reference to "my woman", a phrase that has come to rank almost with the ampersand as a species marker. But "my woman" is phoney working-class realism, a doubtful memory of a vanished solidarity. And what follows shows the author in familiar vein, boldly going where fifty thousand little magazine contributors have gone before. British "experimental" poetry, in other words, with neither grace nor imagination nor humour nor skill to recommend it. It does not even shock. And it is about as experimental as the wheelbarrow. (p. 866)

Alasdair Maclean, in The Times Literary Supplement (© Times Newspapers Ltd. (London) 1975; reproduced from The Times Literary Supplement by permission), August 1, 1975.

John Matthias

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There are always plenty of paramours in D. M. Thomas's work, and one must respect, if even at a certain hesitant distance, his nervous, experimental, and erotic muse…. Thomas is at it again [in Love and Other Deaths], what with three erotic sequences here, one based on the I Ching, another on the figure of Eve's apocryphal rival, Lilith, and the third on what he calls "a central contemporary myth: the kidnapping of a diplomat by extremists." I'm afraid I'm not very enthusiastic about any of them. It sometimes looks, especially in the case of poor Lil, as if Crazy Jane had been knocked up by Hughes's Crow, the unlikely issue having been midwifed by Nathaniel Tarn's Bride of God and Brother Antoninus working together…. Peter Porter has said, a propos of something else, "Nothing is worse than the man who pretends to be a ferocious Savonarola when really underneath he's just a fun-loving monk." Though we know there is something worse—namely, the Savonarola who pretends to be a fun-loving monk—any confusion of the two is distracting, and there is something of both in Thomas when he writes these erotic poems. Still, the first half of Love and Other Deaths has to do, not with the traditional erotic pun, but with the other deaths, and one can admire poems like Cecie, The Journey, Rubble, and Dream while not much liking some of the poems which follow. In general, I think Thomas is at his best both in this book and in his previous volume, Logan Stone, when he writes poems deriving from his family experience and his search for roots in Cornwall. (pp. 354-55)

John Matthias, in Poetry (© 1977 by The Modern Poetry Association; reprinted by permission of the Editor of Poetry), March, 1977.

Peter Scupham

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The mysterious privacy to be found in [the various landscapes of The Honeymoon Voyage] is one the poet shares with those divine and human presences who, whether rooted or in exile, define the numen of their homes and in collusion with their recorder allow the reader to participate in their own myths. In this sense Thomas is one of the least egocentric of writers, concerned to feel his way through self-effacements into the disturbing otherness of worlds where ancestral voices speak in their allusive tongues while he holds seance….

The title poem sends the collection into a new direction, and possibly the least successful one. From our homes we make voyages into death and pain; the traverse is made through a dragging erotic sea, and the verse slips and sways towards its unconcluded ends. Syntax loosens; the cadences are held on light reins. Reason clouds, and the poems drift between sleep and wake, life and death….

Thomas's concern is with the exchange of dreams, his work has the richness conferred by a temperament impatient of division and boundary. He works towards unity, towards removing the "perhaps" from the final stanza of "Stone":

           There is also the seventh book,
                       perhaps, the seventh,
           And called The Seventh Book
                    because it is not published.
           The one that a child thinks he
                       could have written,
           Made of the firmest stone and
                        clearest leaves,
           That a people keep alive by, keep
                                   alive.

Peter Scupham, "Other Voices, Other Worlds," in The Times Literary Supplement (© Times Newspapers Ltd. (London) 1978; reproduced from The Times Literary Supplement by permission), June 30, 1978, p. 728.

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Thomas, D(onald) M(ichael) (Vol. 31)