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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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Dylan Thomas and American Poetry: ‘a kind of secret, but powerful, leaven’

Dylan Thomas and American Poetry: ‘a kind of secret, but powerful, leaven’

(p.197) Chapter 10 Dylan Thomas and American Poetry: ‘a kind of secret, but powerful, leaven’
Reading Dylan Thomas

Philip Coleman

Edinburgh University Press

In The Poetry of Dylan Thomas (2013), John Goodby argues that ‘[t]he scope of Thomas’s impact on US poetry is remarkable, and it testifies to his characteristic hybrid ambivalence’. In the spirit of elaborating on this observation, this chapter considers how a number of quite different American poets have engaged with Thomas’s work, including Charles Olson, Delmore Schwartz, Elizabeth Bishop, and Denise Levertov. The essay also brings into focus the more explicit dialogue established throughout the poetry of John Berryman, for whom Thomas was a constant and almost familial figure from the 1940s to the end of his career. In Dream Song 88, Berryman imagines Thomas in the afterlife ‘with more to say / now there’s no hurry, and we’re all a clan.’ In this chapter, the idea of American poets belonging to or seeking to belong to such a ‘clan’ is examined, up to and including the work of a number of contemporary poets and schools of verse. The chapter takes a broad view, then, of the many ways Thomas has influenced the writing of poetry, and in doing so scrutinises the way the history of American poetry has so often been narrated.

Keywords:   America, Charles Olson, John Berryman, Influence, Poetics

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