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This report is taken from PN Review 261, Volume 48 Number 1, September - October 2021.

Letter from Wales Sam Adams
I have been browsing James Keery’s Apocalypse – a big and bold collection of the ‘visionary modernist’ poetry that came rapidly to the boil in the 1930s and ’40s, simmered through middle of the last century and spilled over in splashes during a decade or so beyond. It promises food for the mind extending far into the future. Understandably, I hope, I turned first to familiar names, in whose company it has felt much like old times: the same whirling imagery and (often enough) the same bafflement. But what’s poetry for, if not to make us think?   

Keery acknowledges, with the minutest hesitation, that ‘the central body of work is that of Dylan Thomas’. Well, there’s a connection for a start: Thomas’s explosive entry into the literary world, 18 Poems, saw the light of day in December 1934, a few weeks after I did, and I was lucky enough to catch up with him at Aberystwyth in 1952, when, single-handed, he held a packed student audience enthralled. I do not exaggerate: I have attended many poetry readings since, some very fine and special, but none to compare with that evening in Aber.  

One or two reviewers saw in Thomas’s early published poetry the taint of surrealism, which they did not much care for. Tackled on the subject later, he forswore any influence or indeed knowledge of the movement. This was a fib. During the International Surrealist Exhibition at the New Burlington Galleries, June–July 1936, he had carried a cup of boiled string around asking visitors whether they would like it weak ...


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