|Dylan Thomas - The Great Welsh Poet & Writer|
Particularly on St. David's Day as I sit with the daffodils being blown about in the wind and rain here in Dinas Powys, I find myself thinking of the great Welsh poet and writer, Dylan Thomas (I named my daughter after his wife, Caitlin) and his well loved play for voices "Under Milk Wood".
"To begin at the beginning: It is spring, moonless night in the small town, starless and bible-black, the cobblestreets silent and the hunched, courters'-and-rabbits' wood limping invisible down to the sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack, fishingboatbobbing sea".
His love of language shines through every thing he writes and to me "Under Milk Wood" is closer to a poem even though it is technically a play. Thomas truly paints pictures with words.
Poetry connects us to our feelings in ways that prose does not. You could argue that poetry is form of coding which talks straight to our hearts and accesses reservoirs of feeling never quite touched by other forms of fiction.
Poetry is a more challenging form of literature-writing because you have to condense your thoughts and feelings in to images which speak large to your readers. Not only this, but the construction and rhythm of your poem adds to the meaning.
Poetry is meant to be read out loud.
In the same way that, to me, a true appreciation of a Shakespeare play can only be achieved when the text is performed, or at the very least read aloud.
How can you not love this?
"If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son".
(If, by Rudyard Kipling)
I wander'd lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
(Daffodils by William Wordsworth)
Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question….
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.
(The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock by T. S. Eliot)
Before we had the written word, we had songs and sagas. Ancient themes of love, loss, survival - the keystones of the human experience, are all captured in poems across the ages.
I hope that we continue to teach poetry in our schools and to give it as much importance in the curriculum as no doubt coding and all things IT will come to have.
My old secondary school loans all its pupils iPads, whilst I remember English lessons on sunny afternoons watching the motes of chalk dust swirl in the light as we took turns to read poems and stories out loud.
Our challenge, as I see it, is to preserve our literary past whilst embracing the technological future.
Growing youngsters often struggle with their feelings and literature can provide a safe, enjoyable safety valve.
Good poetry is almost a form of hypnosis. You could argue the same about playing games on an iPad.
But whereas one is often soulless, the other can sometimes connect you to your soul.