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Reading Dylan Thomas$
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Edward Allen

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781474411554

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474411554.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM EDINBURGH SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.edinburgh.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Edinburgh University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ESO for personal use.date: 16 September 2021

Staircases, fires; bombs, milk, wombs, wax, hangmen, sleep, rabbits, stew; a Mars Bar, pinpoints; lovely peaches

Staircases, fires; bombs, milk, wombs, wax, hangmen, sleep, rabbits, stew; a Mars Bar, pinpoints; lovely peaches

Chapter:
(p.49) Chapter 3 Staircases, fires; bombs, milk, wombs, wax, hangmen, sleep, rabbits, stew; a Mars Bar, pinpoints; lovely peaches
Source:
Reading Dylan Thomas
Author(s):

Deborah Bowman

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9781474411554.003.0004

Dylan Thomas often described his writing process as one of putting-in: poems are ‘“watertight compartments”’; he was ‘tightly packing away everything I have and know into a mad-doctor’s bag’. To be sure, Thomas’s writing has in it a lot of containers, the escape of whose contents constitutes a threat or a promise or an enacted drama: rooms, houses, mouths, towns, tins of peaches, dead dogs, world-views, stomachs, keepings of secrets and guilts. This chapter offers an approach to some of these things, and in doing so reveals another peculiarity: the way in which Thomas’s ‘tightly packed’ writing prompts in his critics an urge to explain, unfold, and unpack his ‘mad-doctor’s bag’, combined with an anxiety and embarrassment about the propriety of seeing and touching what’s in it, which they might even turn out to have illegitimately smuggled in themselves. A poem is a can of worms; opening some of Thomas’s, this chapter explores ways in which criticism could be something more than a worm-tidy. The chapter looks into numerous cans of worms, including ‘The Conversation of Prayers’, ‘Request to Leda (Homage to William Empson)’ – the chapter touches on Empson and pastoral – and a short story called ‘The Peaches’.

Keywords:   Pastoral, William Empson, Criticism, Speech-acts, Syllabics, Form

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