The Friday Question was . . .
. . . If you could only read one Poet for the rest of your life, who would it be?
And my answer is . . .
. . . The Welsh poet Dylan Thomas.
Ever since I first picked up Under Milk Wood off my father’s bookshelf the pure sound of the words off the page had me hooked. Listening to the Richard Burton narrated record version of the poem-play only cemented its position in my mind.
It was the sound of the words which captivated me. Up to this point, at school, poetry seemed to be about line ending rhymes, where the rest of the words were pretty straight forward and boring.
Thomas mined words like a hewer struck his pick into rock.
My wife’s family had been miners and a cautionary rhyme was passed down through the ages: Pick too high, lose an eye. Pick too low, lose a toe.
Thomas realised that you had to strike the words in exactly the right place, as his lists of words on his desk at the Boat House attest to. His knowledge and understanding of Welsh language forms of poetry certainly influenced the form and shape of his poems; although this is often not credited to him.
Thomas’ ‘rock star’ life gave him the fame and notoriety in a way we simply do not see poets today, but that often detracts from his actual work. Under Milk Wood and Death Shall Have No Dominion will be his most well known works, but for me it is Especially When The October Wind which inspired me to write my own poetry.
There are plenty of poets which I have come to admire and value – Simon Armitage, Seamus Heaney, Gillian Clarke, Owen Sheers, John Agard, Benjamin Zephaniah, Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, Edward Thomas, Hedd Wyn – but Dylan Thomas is always the touchstone.