From the Archive: Dylan Thomas
"O may my heart's truth
Still be sung
On this high hill in a year's turning"
—"Poem in October," Dylan Thomas, Poetry, February 1945
As the story goes, the thirty-something Dylan Thomas would only get up in the morning if someone stuffed a beer bottle in his mouth. Thomas was, and remains, most famous for the way he won the hearts of poetry readers and the fangs of gossip columnists in equal measure. January marks the seventieth anniversary of Thomas's first appearance in Poetry, as one of many up-and-comers in the 1937 "English Number" guest-edited by W.H. Auden. Though only twenty-four years old at the time, Thomas was on the doorstep of a uniquely public poetry career, where he would become renowned in Europe and America for his riotous recitations and lifestyle. He was also, sadly, past the middle of his life.
Often overshadowed by the character he played on stage, Thomas's work has been the subject of several critical backlashes since his death in 1953. However, as this slide show documenting Thomas's appearances in Poetry throughout the years affirms, he was a poet of many gifts: a finely-tuned ear, a sense of form which allowed him to inhabit his personal grief, and, above all, irrepressible energy and delight in language itself. The plain celebration of man and God, which he called "the joy and function of poetry," shines through his often obscure metaphorical logic and romanticized subject matter. The tabloid-worthy nature of his personal decline makes it easy to overlook what he left behind, but, as Karl Shapiro in Poetry wrote after his death, Thomas is a poet who "will not be dismissed."