Saturday, 4 January 2014

Dylan Thomas - On Childhood

Dylan is famous for many things, one of which is his fond, tender and playful writings about childhood, especially his own, or more specifically boyhood, since girls are those other creatures with whom snowball throwing boys waiting for cats to appear on the garden fence have little to do. See the stories in Quite Early on Morning, for example.

Dylan's memorial Stone in Cwmdonkin Park
The Hunchback in the Park (pg.93), does what it says on the tin. Here I want simply to point out the imaginative, original and arresting nature of Dylan's descriptive powers:

- in stanza one, the notion that the unlocking of the gates 'lets the trees and water in'

- in stanza two, the accuracy of observation 'the chained cup that the children filled with gravel'

- in stanza three, the simile 'like the water he sat down'

- in stanza four, the image of the park  as a 'loud zoo'

- in stanza five, the brilliance of 'the boys among willows/made tigers jump out of their eyes'

 - in stanza six, the simile 'straight as a young elm'

 - in stanza seven, the simile 'the wild boys innocent as strawberries.'

A fellow poet advised me once that all you need for a really good poem is one astonishing image, metaphor or simile. I am glad to say that this is otiose here.

Read the poem too quickly, blink, and you will miss Dylan's sparkle and might be in danger of dismissing this poem as a piece of over-sentimental froth. Not so, I say, not so.

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