Review: The Dylan Thomas Omnibus

Posted 9 October, 2015 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

The Dylan Thomas Omnibus
By: Dylan Thomas
Format/Source: Paperback; my copy

All Dylan Thomas’ major works gathered together and featuring a bold new livery in celebration of the Dylan Thomas centenary. A rich collection of Dylan Thomas’ best-loved poems and stories, such as PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG DOG, and pieces he wrote for radio and magazines, including the celebrated radio play UNDER MILK WOOD. The DYLAN THOMAS OMNIBUS highlights the full range and genius of this tempestuous and meticulous artist.

I admit, my first encounter with Dylan Thomas was actually from the movie Solaris with George Clooney; in the movie they recited one of his poems, “And death shall have no dominion.” It was an interesting poem so I looked it up and read the whole poem. A short while later I chose it as my poem of choice for a Grade 12 English class assignment (if I may add, my English teacher was impressed that I had chose it as he had studied the poem when he was studying English at university). After that I didn’t really come across any of his poems or sought them until recently when I started reading more poetry. Apparently it was his centennial recently or something because these books were issued then; I thought this was a good place to start because it included his well-known poems as well as his stories.

After reading the likes of Federico Garcia Lorca and Pablo Neruda, reading Dyland Thomas’ poems was quite a change of pace; they’re very different from Spanish poetry. Much of his poetry focuses or utilises the physical: the fragility of the flesh, of bone, of death–cadavers and tombs and unto dust we go–as well as the landscapes of the places he grew up in. It can be lush but it can also be sombre: there are a lot of poems that touch on death in some way, though I’m also guessing the wars in the early twentieth century probably influenced his writing (I haven’t fully read his biography). His poems are also stylistically different from what I’ve been reading recently; it was nice however to see a change in his writing over time as he moved to a lot of long poetry and turned a wee bit experimental in some of his works.

There were a couple of poems I came across while reading this that I really liked, but “And death shall have no dominion” remains my favourite from him; it’s absolutely haunting:

And death shall have no dominion.
Dead man naked they shall be one
With the man in the wind and the west moon;
When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
Though they go mad they shall be sane,
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
Under the windings of the sea
They lying long shall not die windily;
Twisting on racks when sinews give way,
Strapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break;
Faith in their hands shall snap in two,
And the unicorn evils run them through;
Split all ends up they shan’t crack;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
No more may gulls cry at their ears
Or waves break loud on the seashores;
Where blew a flower may a flower no more
Lift its head to the blows of the rain;
Though they be mad and dead as nails,
Heads of the characters hammer through daisies;
Break in the sun till the sun breaks down,
And death shall have no dominion.

So why didn’t I rate this collection higher? Well, when I got to the stories, broadcasts and the radio play “Under Milk Wood”, I wasn’t gripped or enamoured as I was with his poetry. His lyricism is ever present in his stories, but the stories themselves were kind of meh, I wasn’t sure where the stories were heading or what I was supposed to take out of them. And “Under Milk Wood” was a very strange play.

Overall it was nice to read more from Dylan Thomas’ works after years after the fact. I’d probably just stick to his poetry as they were far more interesting than his prose work, but checking out the latter nonetheless was interesting.

Rating: ★★★½☆

Learn more about the author on Wikipedia || Order this book from the Book Depository

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