Dylan Thomas was above all else a poet. His main collections of poems are Eighteen Poems (1934), Twenty-five Poems (1936), The Map of Love (1939), New Poems (1943), Deaths and Entrances (1946), Twenty-six Poems (1950), In Country Sleep (1952), Collected Poems, 1934-1952 (1952), and The Poems of Dylan Thomas (1971), a posthumous collection edited by Daniel Jones.
Thomas was also a writer of prose. With John Davenport, he wrote a novel, The Death of the King’s Canary (1976), published more than twenty years after Thomas’s death. Among his major collections of short stories are Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog (1940) and two collections published posthumously, A Prospect of the Sea and Other Stories (1955) and Adventures in the Skin Trade and Other Stories (1955). A definitive edition of his short fiction, The Collected Stories, was published in 1984.
Particularly germane to a consideration of Thomas the dramatist are his radio scripts. The collection Quite Early One Morning (1954) contains twenty-two scripts for broadcast by the British Broadcasting Corporation. Two of these scripts, Quite Early One Morning (1944) and Return Journey (1947), contributed to the evolution of Under Milk Wood. A third radio script, The Londoner (1946), also contributed to the evolution of the play and is included in the volume “The Doctor and the Devils” and Other Scripts (1966). This volume also contains two film scripts, The Doctor and the Devils (1953) and Twenty Years A’Growing (1964). Other film scripts by Thomas include three published posthumously: The Beach at Falesá, published in 1963; Rebecca’s Daughters, published in 1965; and Me and My Bike, also published in 1965. Thomas also wrote two potboilers, Three Weird Sisters (1948), with Louise Birt and David Evans, and No Room at the Inn (1948), with Ivan Foxwell for British National.
Thomas’s notebooks and letters have also been published: Letters to Vernon Watkins (1957), edited by Watkins; Selected Letters of Dylan Thomas (1966), edited by Constantine FitzGibbon; Poet in the Making: The Notebooks of Dylan Thomas (1968), edited by Ralph Maud; and Twelve More Letters by Dylan Thomas (1969), edited by FitzGibbon.
Dylan Thomas is probably one of the half-dozen most significant poets to have written in English in the twentieth century, although critical opinion about his work has been divided. By the end of his life, Thomas had become a popular poet. The sales of his Collected Poems, 1934-1952, published the year before he died, showed that the popularity of his work was unequaled by any other serious modern poet in English. The interest in Thomas was partly a result of the “legend” that developed during his lifetime, fostered by Thomas’s eccentric mode of life, his striking originality, and his extraordinary ability to read his poetry aloud. Perhaps in reaction to the Thomas cult, academic critics in Great Britain were slower than were their American counterparts to recognize his status as a major poet.
Although Thomas wrote only one play, its incorporation into the repertory of most theaters was extremely rapid after its initial performance in 1953. More so than the poetic dramas of T. S. Eliot or Christopher Fry, Under Milk Wood has become one of the major contemporary challenges to conventional notions of theater. It is likely that Under Milk Wood will remain the primary example and measure for future experiments in this important domain of the theater.
In addition to his short fiction, Dylan Thomas published several collections of poetry, including Eighteen Poems (1934), Twenty-five Poems (1936), New Poems (1943), and Collected Poems: 1934-1952 (1952). Under Milk Wood (1954) is a verse drama that affectionately portrays a day in the life of the inhabitants of a tiny Welsh fishing village. Thomas also wrote many screenplays, most...
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- Critical Essays