Thursday, September 07, 2006

Dylan Thomas

I spent $11 today on a batch of mp3s of Dylan Thomas reading his poetry. I've gained quite a lot of consumer surplus. They're on my mp3 player now. His voice is beautiful.

There are two topics I have to choose from. I could write about the problems I have with the notion of economic efficiency, or why I like Thomas's poetry. I only have time to write about one, because I want to have time to read some poetry before bed.

Thomas's poetry tastes delicious. The understated but frequent alliterations feel good in the mouth, and the forced rhymes and irregular meters give the entire affair a sense of deeply-buried structure. I read him aloud long before I even tried to understand his poetry, just for the joy of the sound.

Over time, reading by reading, I start to glean the meaning of what's being said, who the characters or metaphors represent. Many, I admit, I still don't understand. But some I know exactly.

I cry when I read Thomas's poetry. That's true, and I don't cry often. And it's surprising--it's not love poetry, at least so far as I can tell, for the most part, nor does it speak of tragedy or nihilism. Rather the most poignant poems, Fern Hill, Poem in October, Poem on his Birthday, and perhaps In Country Sleep, deal with the passage of time, the death and echo of childhood. I suppose I tear up reading that for the same reason Margaret cried as she watched Goldengrove unleave.

And some poems are just raw with power, with almost an unadulterated, impersonal will. Rage, rage against the dying... Stuff that makes my heart drum.

There is, now, always this hint of the timeless in what he writes, of great and powerful truths, with this veneer of pastoral imagery and crisp consonants.

It seems to me like that is something an artist should strive for. To bury a truth, a theme, a commentary, within a work, but at the same time make its covering so pleasant and lovely in itself, that's it a joy to go searching for the secret inside.

I feel very peaceful now.

It's the knowledge of having done the right thing, for having the courage to take a chance, far-fetched as it may have been.

It is, to be sure, the reason we don't spend our entire lives crying over dead deciduousness.

The voyage to ruin I must run,
Dawn ships clouted aground,
Yet, though I cry with tumbledown tongue,
Count my blessings aloud:

Four elements and five
Senses, and man a spirit in love
Tangling through this spun slime
To his nimbus bell cool kingdom come
And the lost, moonshine domes,
And the sea that hides his secret selves
Deep in its black, base bones,
Lulling of spheres in the seashell flesh,
And this last blessing most,

That the closer I move
To death, one man through his sundered hulks,
The louder the sun blooms
And the tusked, ramshackling sea exults

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