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O Wyoming Whipporwill

Claire Harman: George Barker, 3 October 2002

The Chameleon Poet: A Life of George Barker 
by Robert Fraser.
Cape, 573 pp., £25, February 2002, 0 224 06242 5
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... and accommodating talents.’ This Barker was unable to do. He was highly aware of his rivals, Dylan Thomas in particular, and fashion-conscious in ways that were not always helpful; his experiments with surrealism around the time of the 1936 exhibition were unsuccessful and his attempts at a noirish tone in the 1960s weak. Just before war broke ...

Making up

Julian Symons, 15 August 1991

Lipstick, Sex and Poetry 
by Jeremy Reed.
Peter Owen, 119 pp., £14.95, June 1991, 0 7206 0817 1
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A poet could not but be gay 
by James Kirkup.
Peter Owen, 240 pp., £16.95, June 1991, 0 7206 0823 6
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There was a young man from Cardiff 
by Dannie Abse.
Hutchinson, 211 pp., £12.99, April 1991, 0 09 174757 0
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String of Beginners 
by Michael Hamburger.
Skoob Books, 338 pp., £10.99, May 1991, 1 871438 66 7
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... of a rag-bag. Part One contains stories round and about schooldays, readable enough but not up to Dylan Thomas as a young dog. In Part Two ‘The Scream’ gives us Dannie (all right, the narrator), now a medical student, thumbing a lift to Cardiff from a lorry-driver. They stop at a sinister little café where he hears a woman’s piercing scream ...

One word says to its mate

Claire Harman: W.S. Graham, 4 October 2001

The Nightfisherman: Selected Letters of W.S. Graham 
edited by Michael Snow and Margaret Snow.
Carcanet, 401 pp., £12.95, November 1999, 1 85754 445 5
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... 1949. His career began auspiciously in the early 1940s with the enthusiastic support of his hero Dylan Thomas, but the surrealism of his early collections, such as Cage without Grievance and 2ND Poems, seemed to mark him out as an oddity who could easily be ignored. The White Threshold in 1949 and The Nightfishing in 1955 made a conscious break with his ...

Just a smack at Grigson

Denis Donoghue, 7 March 1985

Montaigne’s Tower, and Other Poems 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Secker, 72 pp., £5.95, October 1984, 0 436 18806 6
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Collected Poems: 1963-1980 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Allison and Busby, 256 pp., £4.95, October 1984, 0 85031 557 3
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The Faber Book of Reflective Verse 
edited by Geoffrey Grigson.
Faber, 238 pp., £7.95, October 1984, 0 571 13299 5
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Blessings, Kicks and Curses 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Allison and Busby, 279 pp., £4.95, October 1984, 0 85031 558 1
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The Private Art: A Poetry Notebook 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Allison and Busby, 231 pp., £4.95, October 1984, 9780850315592
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Before the Romantics: An Anthology of the Enlightenment 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Salamander, 349 pp., £5.95, September 1984, 0 907540 59 7
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... and rancour. There is evidence that he enjoys walking, curlews, turtledoves, bullfinches, owls, Thomas Moore’s ‘Thee, Thee, Only Thee’ and much that France still offers. There are writers he likes, most of them dead: Ronsard, John Clare, William Barnes (‘love of whose poems seems to me a litmus paper of the genuine’), Auden (‘the greatest of my ...

Pioneers

Christopher Reid, 3 September 1981

Some Americans: A Personal Record 
by Charles Tomlinson.
California, 134 pp., £6.50, June 1981, 0 520 04037 6
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... gradually revealed that there were other ways of writing verse than those prescribed either by the Dylan Thomas school of apocalyptic word-chimers, or by the Movement, in whose manifestos he detected – rightly, I think – a fatal ‘whiff of little Englandism’. So, after beginning unsteadily, with early poems that had not quite assimilated the ...

Churchill’s Faces

Rosemary Hill, 30 March 2017

... of 1927 best catches that plasticity in an image that recalls the similarly sandy and baby-faced Dylan Thomas. Churchill’s longest-lasting, albeit stormy, artistic relationship was with his cousin, the sculptor Clare Sheridan, who first made a head of him in 1919. Even for her he wouldn’t sit still for more than a few minutes. On that occasion he ...

Against Passion

James Meek: Passionate Politics, 30 November 2017

The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics 
by Mark Lilla.
Harper, 160 pp., £19, August 2017, 978 0 06 269743 1
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The Shipwrecked Mind: On Political Reaction 
by Mark Lilla.
NYRB, 166 pp., £9.99, September 2016, 978 1 59017 902 4
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... What​ is identity politics? Is it, to paraphrase Dylan Thomas, a part of society you don’t like that’s fighting for its interests as fiercely as yours does? Or is it, as Mark Lilla puts it in The Once and Future Liberal, ‘a pseudo-politics of self-regard and increasingly narrow and exclusionary self-definition’? The book belongs to the genre of responses to Donald Trump’s election in which liberal American academics turn their rage on their own intellectual-political class ...

In Coleridge’s Bed

Ange Mlinko: Dead Poets Road Trip, 20 April 2017

Deaths of the Poets 
by Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts.
Cape, 414 pp., £14.99, February 2017, 978 0 224 09754 3
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... Washington Avenue Bridge, where John Berryman jumped to his death; the White Horse Tavern, where Dylan Thomas supposedly drank the 18 whiskeys that killed him; 23 Fitzroy Road, where Plath laid her head on a folded towel in the gas oven; Missolonghi, per Byron; Rome, to the Keats-Shelley House; Vienna, where Auden bore out his own prophecy: ‘I shall ...

Hääyöaie?

Don Coles, 5 June 1986

Sphinx 
by D.M. Thomas.
Gollancz, 248 pp., £9.95, June 1986, 0 575 03611 7
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... I must declare an interest in this particular Thomas. Dylan, R.S., above all the heart-inscribed Edward – these I admire, respect, claim. D.M. I have had little luck with. Our relationship began with the publication some years ago of The Flute Player, a novel which, I had heard, concerned the life of Osip Mandelstam ...

Dictionaries

Randolph Quirk, 25 October 1979

Collins Dictionary of the English Language 
by P. Hanks, T.H. Long and L. Urdang.
Collins, 1690 pp., £7.95
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... something of an oversimplification, but not all that much. The tradition is rich and unbroken: in Thomas Elyot’s Latin dictionary of 1538 we find aedificium ‘building’, in Bullokar’s English dictionary of 1616 the minimally anglicised edifice ‘a building’, in the 1979 Collins edifice ‘a building’. For all their bright newness, dictionaries of ...

Quality Distinctions

Edmund Leach, 17 December 1981

The Architecture of Experience: A Discussion of the Role of Language and Literature in the Construction of the World 
by G.D. Martin.
Edinburgh, 201 pp., £12, February 1981, 0 333 23560 6
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... have almost the whole of value-culture from Bach to Britten, from Bosch to Picasso, from Donne to Dylan Thomas, consigned to the dustbin’. Apparently the continents of Asia, Africa and South America do not exist except as the homelands of superstition and benighted savagery. Value-culture is the mark of ‘our’ superiority, and it is ludicrous to ...

Modern Wales

Rosalind Mitchison, 19 November 1981

Rebirth of a Nation: Wales 1880-1980 
by Kenneth O. Morgan.
Oxford, 463 pp., £15, March 1981, 0 19 821736 6
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... writer ought to be his language,’ and repeats the attack by Bobi Jones, a learner of Welsh, on Dylan Thomas for ‘importing and adapting culture from an uninteresting and impoverished England’. In both statements Welsh-speakers are not only claiming what is certainly their right and privilege, to prefer one culture to another: they are also seeking ...

In Memory of Michael Rogin

Stephen Greenblatt, 3 January 2002

... After the first death,’ Dylan Thomas wrote, ‘there is no other.’ I know what he is getting at, I suppose, but it isn’t true, at least not for me. I have had other deaths, but the death last month of my friend Michael Rogin was a shock. It’s not that we had, in recent years, spent much time together ...

On Rosemary Tonks

Patrick McGuinness: Rosemary Tonks, 2 July 2015

... own turn towards spiritualism. The poem echoes, to different and clearly parodic effect, the Dylan Thomas of ‘Fern Hill’: ‘In the green rags of the Bible I tore up/The straight silk of childhood on my head.’ It is, for Tonks, unusually dense and incrusted with the Dylanesque verbal impasto of the 1940s poets, the ‘new romantics’ she ...

That Wild Mercury Sound

Charles Nicholl: Dylan’s Decade, 1 December 2016

The Bootleg Series, Vol. 12: The Cutting Edge 1965-66 
by Bob Dylan.
Columbia, £60, November 2015
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... Bob Dylan’s​ first album, recorded in New York in late 1961, was simply called Bob Dylan. The creation of ‘Bob Dylan’ – the persona, the sound, the look – was as important as the record’s contents. He’d been using the alias since the summer of 1960 ...

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