Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Dylan Thomas - On Writing

In my craft or sullen art (pg. 106) Dylan expostulates on writing. He explains the thankless nature of his solitary, nocturnal labours (alone being one of the meanings of 'sullen' here), with what has to be his tongue firmly in his cheek, that is not for 'ambition or bread,' of ' the strut and trade of charms/ on the ivory stages,' but the 'common wages' of lovers' hearts. It is on the one hand a piece of unreliable autobiography and wishful thinking if ever I read one, yet the fear of going unremarked surely haunts all writers, especially the egotists amongst us.

Laugharne Castle
Structurally I find this poem interesting in that it has the feel of a palindrome. This is not precise in any sense of course, but is by way of inventive repetition in the phrases, objects and images; a working over and around of the limited palette: moon, lovers, griefs, arms, wages whereby form aligns with argument; as well as the rhyme scheme, which although irregular, is approximately similar between the two stanzas, and the opening and closing lines being very close. Note the word sullen disappears at the end.

Images that especially appeal are 'singing light' as I could certainly do with one of those when I am working; 'spindrift pages' because it is an interesting one - the idea that pages are either waves or snow being blown by the wind, either way they are white and unfilled with ink; and I enjoy the side swipe at his predecessors: 'the towering dead with their nightingales (Keats, presumably) and psalms.'

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