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Dylan Thomas and the poetry of the 1940s, in Michael O'Neill, ed., The Cambridge History of English Poetry

John Goodby

Pages: 858 - 878

Swansea University Author: John Goodby

Abstract

An introductory and revisionary account of 1940s poetry which takes seriously the apocalyptic and neo-romantic strain in British poetry of the decade, relating it to the adaptations of modernism and surrealism to wartime conditions across the arts in Britain, and placing Thomas near the heart of suc...

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Published: Cambridge Cambridge University Press 2010
URI: https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa11438
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Abstract: An introductory and revisionary account of 1940s poetry which takes seriously the apocalyptic and neo-romantic strain in British poetry of the decade, relating it to the adaptations of modernism and surrealism to wartime conditions across the arts in Britain, and placing Thomas near the heart of such dvelopments. It is argued that the period witnessed a unique variety of kinds of poetry, from the high modernism renewed in the work of David Jones (The Anathemata) and T. S. Eliot (Four Quartets), to the women poets, Edith Sitwell (Still Falls the Rain), H.D. (Trilogy) and Lynette Roberts (Gods With Stainless Ears), and a host of others, including Alun Lewis, Edwin Muir, Keith Douglas, J. F. Hendry and W. S. Graham, most of whom produced their best work in this period. The 'Blitz sublime' and a sense of war as theatre are among the subjects discussed, both in relation to Thomas and the other younger poets, as is the emergence of a parabolical strain and a renewed Christian poetry in the postwar period. The period is placed in relation to the Movement and the bad press the 1940s have received by using Andrew Crozier's 1983 essay 'Thrills and Frills: Poetry as Figures of Empirical Lyricism' which analyses post-1950s mainstream British poetry's attempts to limit poetry to 'an authoritative self discoursing in a world of banal, empirically derived objects and relations', and tracing the surviving, unacknowledged leavening force of the 1940s poets in the present day commitment to heterogeneity, to women's and working-class writing, and to the work of such poets as Geoffrey Hill, Edwin Morgan, Roy Fisher, Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, as well as the more avant-garde line running through W. S Graham to the likes of Denise Riley.
Keywords: Dylan Thomas, WWII, Blitz, Lynette Roberts, T. S. Eliot, W. H. Auden, David Jones, Keith Douglas, Edwin Muir, Alun Lewis, F. R. Hendry, theatre, the sublime, Henry Reed, public sphere, surrealism, modernism
College: College of Arts and Humanities
Start Page: 858
End Page: 878