Mason's Reviews > Collected Poems

Collected Poems by Dylan Thomas
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's review
Dec 05, 2011

really liked it

Fiction, Updike once said, should be no more clearer than life. Thomas takes a similar approach to verse—each poem in this collection is wildly contradictory and ripe with paradoxical complexity. His best poems pure dark beauty; almost sensually ecstatic even in the face of the darkest sorrows, they give our tremors and terrors wings, and dare us to follow them into the deepest secrets of life itself. To read a Thomas poem is to see common experience frozen in the glowing amber of language; who can read “Fern Hill” without remembering the day they grew up forever, or encounter “And Death Shall Have No Dominion” without mourning a loved one? As for “Do not go gentle into that good night”, it still packs a wallop, particularly when viewed through the lens of his “Lie Still, Sleep Becalmed”—both poems were written for his ailing father, and both smart with secret wounds. Admittedly, Thomas’s work isn’t uniformly perfect; a self-proclaimed “freak of words”, he loves to get sidetracked, often yoking together sounds and rhythms and imagery at random just for the aesthetic kick of it. Pieces like “Now” and “Once It Was The Colour of Saying” are the dictionary definition of ambiguity, and they feel a little empty compared to the monolithic power of his major achievements. But regardless of what he’s saying, he’s saying it well; whether wrestling with God or just wrestling with syntax, he does it with consummate grace and a buoyant, boyish willingness to shake things up. Roguish yet wise, he gives healing weight to our common wounds. Even in death, he still sings like the sea.

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