(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Along with the prologue that he wrote for the first edition of his Collected Poems, 1934-1952 (1952), “In My Craft or Sullen Art” is a carefully designed declaration by Thomas of what he wanted the future to think of him as a poet. The conscious intent to shape his persona, however, does not betray his real convictions, though it tends to direct the reader toward certain areas of concern that he preferred to emphasize. The dual focus of the first line properly stresses the care for craft and the almost mystical connection to what Hall calls “a dark river flowing down there somewhere.” Yet the use of the word “sullen” is a typically inspired choice, revealing the frustrating and unsatisfying aspects of the gift that he carried. The poem continues with the conventional Romantic emblem of the artist at work by night, his passion an antisocial one (“only the moon rages”), his energy drawn from the love/grief of humanity. It then turns abruptly to the kind of booming declaration of power that both Thomas and his audience treasured: “I labour by singing light,” he proclaims. Then, in contradiction to most of the actions of his life and most of the more honest confessions of his poetry, he insists that it is not “the strut and trade of charms” that drives him, but the heart’s truth that he has often celebrated. The mastery of rhythm and the powerful emphasis of careful rhyme are so seductive that the appealing message becomes the reality,...

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(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

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Hall, Donald. “Dylan Thomas and Public Suicide.” In Remembering Poets: Reminiscences and Opinions. New York: Harper & Row, 1977.

Hardy, Barbara. Dylan Thomas: An Original Language. Athens: University of George Press, 2000.

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Maud, Ralph. Where Have the Old Words Got Me? Explications of Dylan Thomas’s Collected Poems. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2002.

Sinclair, Andrew. Dylan the Bard: A Life of Dylan Thomas. London: Constable, 1999.

Thomas, Caitlin. Life with Dylan Thomas. New York: Henry Holt, 1987.

Tytell, John. “Dylan and Caitlin.” In Passionate Lives. Secaucus, N.J.: Carol, 1991.