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This article is taken from PN Review 151, Volume 29 Number 5, May - June 2003.

'The Burning Baby' and the Bathwater II James Keery

3: Dylan Thomas and the Apocalypse


There has been much darkening of counsel about the relationship between Dylan Thomas and the Apocalypse. It is generally considered inappropriate, if not an actual historical error, to number Thomas amongst the Apocalyptics at all. Yet he was a contributor to The New Apocalypse, the first of the three Apocalyptic anthologies. 1 To refer to him as Apocalyptic is therefore historically accurate by the narrowest criterion.

Compare the case of Edward Thomas, who never contributed to a Georgian anthology; had he done so, as someone finely said, the name of Georgian would have stood higher. The Penguin anthology, Georgian Poetry (edited by James Reeves, 1962), excludes D.H. Lawrence, who was a contributor, but includes Wilfred Owen, who wasn't, though proud to be `held peer by the Georgians' in 1917. 2 It also includes Edward Thomas. Clearly, anyone who objected that it was `historically inaccurate' to refer to Edward Thomas as `Georgian' would be technically correct. Those who attempt to detach Dylan Thomas from the Apocalypse have not even this technicality in their favour.

Despite his celebrated refusal to sign the Apocalyptic manifesto, Thomas was the centre around which the movement cohered. The point is succinctly made by A.T. Tolley: `Treece saw Dylan Thomas as exemplifying the stance appropriate to an Apocalyptic poet, and Thomas's influence is obvious'. 3 It is equally obvious on every other `Apocalyptic poet', but invariably represented as malign. In a later instalment ...


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