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'"Shot from the locks": Poetry, Mourning, "Deaths and Entrances"' / Steven, Vine

Swansea University Author: Steven, Vine

Abstract

The essay examines Thomas’s 1946 collection 'Deaths and Entrances' in relation to the themes of mourning and elegy in that volume. Beginning with the imagery of locks and keys which figure in the Blitz poems, it argues that Thomas’s poetry lies both within and beyond the elegiac modes of t...

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Published: Palgrave Basingstoke 2001
URI: https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa17982
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Abstract: The essay examines Thomas’s 1946 collection 'Deaths and Entrances' in relation to the themes of mourning and elegy in that volume. Beginning with the imagery of locks and keys which figure in the Blitz poems, it argues that Thomas’s poetry lies both within and beyond the elegiac modes of twentieth-century poetry, audaciously replacing conventional lament with ‘a language of celebration that parodically compounds irony with affirmation.’ In refusing to mourn, these poems heighten already existing strategies from Thomas’s earlier poetry and explore the ‘entrance’ of death as a traumatic event into the poetic text. Thomas is aware of his own implication in war; for example, in the collection’s title poem, the speaker shares an occult identity not only with the victims of the air-raid, but also with the Luftwaffe bomber pilot. The essay considers a group of poems that deal with the complexities and anxieties of symbolising or ‘mourning’ death’s catastrophic entrances. Drawing on ideas of mourning and symbolisation in psychoanalysis, it suggests that death, as an invasive ‘other,’ inhabits the way Thomas thinks about the very production of poetry, and that his labour of poetic writing can be understood as a continual performance of ‘deaths and entrances.’
College: College of Arts and Humanities