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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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‘Fine contrary excess’: Seamus Heaney, Derek Mahon and Thomas’s Northern Irish Afterlives

‘Fine contrary excess’: Seamus Heaney, Derek Mahon and Thomas’s Northern Irish Afterlives

Chapter:
(p.215) Chapter 11 ‘Fine contrary excess’: Seamus Heaney, Derek Mahon and Thomas’s Northern Irish Afterlives
Source:
Reading Dylan Thomas
Author(s):

Tom Walker

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9781474411554.003.0012

Dylan Thomas’s work is indebted in many ways to the two giants of early twentieth-century Irish literature, W. B. Yeats and James Joyce, as many critics have acknowledged. Yet Thomas’s work has also left legacies of its own within subsequent Irish writing. As Seamus Heaney commented in his 1993 Oxford Professor of Poetry lecture on Thomas, the Welsh poet was a key ‘part of the initiation’ of his postwar ‘11+ generation into literary culture’, not only through his books but also through his broadcasts and recordings. This chapter argues that within modern Irish poetry, and especially Northern Irish poetry, not least against the backdrop of the failures of the Northern Irish political status quo, Thomas’s work has helped to open up an alternate and less restrictive sense of the poet’s place in relation to the public realm. The impact of Thomas’s adolescent notebook mining and poetic responses to war, as well as the whimsy of his prose and radio work, are traced in this chapter, especially in relation to the work of Heaney and Derek Mahon.

Keywords:   Northern Ireland, Troubles, Seamus Heaney, Derek Mahon, Broadcast

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