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The poetry background of Dylan Thomas gives these reminiscences a certain lyrical quality:

    Years and years ago, when I was a boy, when there were wolves in Wales, and birds the color of
    red-flannel petticoats whisked past the harp-shaped hills, when we sang and wallowed all night and
    day in caves that smelt like Sunday afternoons in damp front farmhouse parlors, and we chased,
    with the jawbones of deacons, the English and the bears, before the motor car, before the wheel,
    before the duchess-faced horse, when we rode the daft and happy hills bareback, it snowed and it
    snowed. But here a small boy says: "It snowed last year, too. I made a snowman and my brother
    knocked it down and I knocked my brother down and then we had tea."

    "But that was not the same snow," I say. "Our snow was not only shaken from white wash buckets
    down the sky, it came shawling out of the ground and swam and drifted out of the arms and hands
    and bodies of the trees; snow grew overnight on the roofs of the houses like a pure and grandfather
    moss, minutely -ivied the walls and settled on the postman, opening the gate, like a dumb, numb
    thunder-storm of white, torn Christmas cards."

And they are wonderfully evocative of his Welsh youth.

But for me they also evoked another memory, of a trip that Bud Rouse and I made up to Saratoga.  We visited friends of his who worked at the track and had a horse of their own (Double Russian was the name, if memory serves).  We had fun at the races, hanging on the far side with all the Hispanic groomsmen and walkers and cussing out prima donna jockeys.  And after dinner and a few frosties that night, our host took down a collection of Dylan Thomas poems and we took turns reading them aloud.  It was precisely the kind of affected scene that you'd expect in a Manhattan novel or like something out of a gutter version of Jane Austen, but I'll be damned if we didn't have fun.

The best, most treasured, books and writers of our lives become entwined in our existence in just such odd and unique ways.  Then any time we encounter them again, they trigger a cascade of memories.  For no reason that will ever matter to anyone else, Dylan Thomas is such a writer for me.  But I think everyone will enjoy this short but terrific memoir.


Grade: (A)


See also:

Book-related and General Links:
    -World of Dylan Thomas: Craft or Sullen Art
    -The Craft And Art Of Dylan Thomas: Dylan Marlais Thomas (1914 - 1953)(many of the poems)
    -Dylan Thomas Centre Website (Swansea, Wales)
    -Dylan Marlais Thomas (1914-1953)
    -Dylan Thomas (Academy of American Poets)
    -Dylan Thomas
    -ETEXT: A Child's Christmas in Wales
    -RADIO ESSAY: The Responsibilities of a Poet ( Dylan Thomas argued that poets who succumb to the allure of the difficult are in danger of losing their audience, and something essential in their art. This is from a 1946 radio program, included in "On the Air With Dylan Thomas: The Broadcasts," edited by Ralph Maud (New Directions)
    -REVIEW: (Quentin Bell: Fine Art for Kids, NY Review of Books)
        The Work of E.H. Shepard edited by Rawle Knox
        Edward Ardizzone: Artist and Illustrator by Gabriel White
        Nicholas and the Fast Moving Diesel by Edward Ardizzone
        A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas and illustrated by Edward Ardizzone
    -REVIEW : of Dylan the Bard: A Life of Dylan Thomas by Andrew Sinclair (Anthony Thwaite, booksonline uk)
    -REVIEW: (Robert Craft: Lives of the Poets, NY review of Books)
        The Collected Letters of Dylan Thomas edited by Paul Ferris
        Journals 1939-1983 by Stephen Spender and edited by John Goldsmith
        Night and Day edited and with an introduction by Christopher Hawtree
    -REVIEW: of The Life of Dylan Thomas by Paul Ferris (Karl Miller, NY Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: (Matthew Hodgart: Old Pup, NY Review of Books)
        Selected Letters of Dylan Thomas edited and with commentary by Constantine Fitzgibbon
        A Concordance to The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas by R.C. Williams
    -REVIEW: (Conor Cruise O'Brien: The Dylan Cult, NY Review of Books)
        The Life of Dylan Thomas by Constantine FitzGibbon
        Dylan Thomas and Poetic Dissociation by David Holbrook
    -REVIEW: (John Wain: Dylan Thomas Today, NY Review of Books)
        Dylan Thomas, His Life and Work by John Ackerman
        The Days of Dylan Thomas by Bill Read and Rollie McKenna
        Dylan Thomas and Poetic Dissociation by David Holbrook


Reading Thomas aloud - my mother tried a few years back to introduce "reading poetry aloud" into our family. I thought it fey and affected and didn't do it willingly.

Anyway, that day, I selected "Fern Hill" and besides being self-conscious about reading poetry aloud, was also self-conscious that I couldn't do more than 5 lines at a time without having to stop to collect myself.

- Brian Jones

- Oct-28-2003, 13:13