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This review is taken from PN Review 216, Volume 40 Number 4, March - April 2014.

Revisiting Dylan Thomas John goodby, The Poetry of Dylan Thomas: Under the Spelling Wall (Liverpool University Press) £75

As the publisher’s blurb makes clear, this study of Thomas anticipates the centenary of the poet’s birth; it also signals that this is the first study of the poet ‘to show how his work may be read in terms of contemporary critical concerns, using theories of modernism, the body, gender, the carnivalesque, language, hybridity and the pastoral in order to view it in an original light’.

This is a bold and adventurous study which should go a long way to dispel the mixture of mystique and disdain which has surrounded the poetry of Dylan Thomas for far too long. Professor Goodby’s introduction tells us that the poet (whose first print run of 3000 copies of Deaths and Entrances, published in February 1946, sold out within a month) has been avoided by critics because, if taken seriously, he would threaten a set of heavily entrenched positions:

In a polarised poetry scene in which loyalty oaths and identity politics tend to rule, he has proved non-recruitable. And while he is not the only poet to have written for avant-garde and mass audiences, he is the only one to have done both in such an un-ignorable and public way. Thus, he holds the key to a major rethinking of British poetry.

With those words in mind it is highly appropriate that a review of this powerfully argued book should appear in PN Review, given that it is not that long since James Keery’s series of articles, ‘The Burning Baby and the Bathwater’, ...


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