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This article is taken from PN Review 171, Volume 33 Number 1, September - October 2006.

The Burning Baby and the Bathwater: Conclusion James Keery

1: ‘Black Magical Bubblings’

The influence of Dylan Thomas, and his involvement with the Apocalypse, can be explained away by judicious selection from a series of axioms:

  1. Thomas is an important poet, but a bad influence on his contemporaries.

  2. Thomas is an unimportant poet, but a bad influence on his contemporaries.

  3. Thomas is an important poet, but his influence has been exaggerated.

  4. Thomas is an unimportant poet whose influence has been exaggerated.

  5. Thomas’s early poetry is Apocalyptic, but in the 1940s it improves.

  6. Thomas’s early poetry is good, but in the 1940s it goes Apocalyptic.

  7. Thomas’s poetry is not Apocalyptic, but neoromantic.

  8. Thomas had nothing to do with the Apocalyptic movement.


My aim in this series of articles has been to dispute these axioms, which at best enliven and at worst bedevil criticism, alongside a similar series, inspired by the need to redeem the decade from guilt by association with the movement:

  1. The Apocalypse was a dead loss, a publicity stunt by wartime opportunists, during a doldrums in English poetry.

  2. The Apocalypse was a dead loss, but at the same time real poets were writing real poetry.

  3. The Apocalypse was a dead loss, but it was all over by 1943, after which attention was refocused onto real poets.

  4. The Apocalypse was a dead loss, but ...


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