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Gwybodaeth Lyfryddol
Where Have the Old Words Got Me? Explications of Dylan Thomas's Collected Poems, 1934-1953
Ralph Maud
ISBN: 9780708317792 (0708317790)Dyddiad Cyhoeddi Mawrth 2003
Cyhoeddwr: Gwasg Prifysgol Cymru / University of Wales Press, Caerdydd
Fformat: Clawr Meddal, 216x138 mm, 368 tudalen Iaith: Saesneg Ar gael Ein Pris: £18.99 
Does dim Adolygiad Cwsmer i'r teitl hwn.
 
Ysgrifennwch Adolygiad Cwsmer
Canllaw darllenydd gwerthfawr i Collected Poems Dylan Thomas (1914 -1953), yn cynnwys manylion eglurhaol ar y cerddi ynghyd â chyfeiriadau at ddigwyddiadau ym mywyd y bardd sy'n taflu goleuni ar gynnwys ei farddoniaeth.

A valuable reader's guide to the Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas (1914-1953), comprising explanatory details on the poems together with references to events in the poet's life which throw light on the content of his work.
In his introduction to this volume of 'Explications of Dylan Thomas's Collected Poems', Ralph Maud tells us that he first tried to write the book in 1954. Only now, however, has the task been made possible by the mass of work done on Thomas in the interim; most notably, by the publication of his Collected Letters in 1985. Maud's working principle was that 'the poems, even the more obscure poems, will open up their meaning when we can discover what Thomas's preoccupations were at the time of writing each of them . . .'

Meaning, writes Maud, not meanings. There is the problem in a nutshell. Maud believes that, despite the 'myriad of remotely possible meanings hovering around an image in Thomas', there is always a 'basic' and a 'right' one which answers to 'the logic of the poem'. This is both a highly questionable statement and a very old-fashioned one. For one thing, meaning is not produced solely by a poet; it is the outcome of an encounter - or many encounters, each of which may alter the nature of what is produced - between a poem and a reader. A warier commentator would propose interpretations.

Despite declaring that he will give us 'a full inventory of the ingredients' of Collected Poems, Maud attends to little but diction. The clearer a poem is, the less he has to say about it. 'Fern Hill' gets 3 pages, 'Poem in October' 1; 'After the Funeral' requires almost 8, 'Altarwise by Owl-light' 21. Maud's method with difficult poems is to interpolate expansions in square brackets. Problems and inadequacies poke up everywhere. For 'the childish snow' ('Before I Knocked'), he offers the limp '[during childhood]'. For the beginning of 'Altarwise by Owl-light I' he gives 'Altarwise [in the shape of a cross] . . .' I have seen crosses on altars, but never a cross-shaped altar! For 'Rip of the vaults' in Sonnet III of the same sequence he offers '[having been ripped from the sarcophagus womb]', ignoring the plural "vaults" and seemingly unaware of the phrase 'a young rip'.

Poetry delights in ambiguity, and Thomas embraced it like a lover. Only when Maud admits the multiplicity of 'doublecrossed' in 'Before I Knocked' does he come to grips with the word. Why struggle to tie 'gentleman' to Christ in 'Altarwise by Owl-light I'? It's a doomed ploy.

For a critic to restrict himself to wrestling with diction is asking for trouble. Meaning in a lyric poem is the creation of many things, including tone, rhythm, texture, rhyme, structural patterning. Just who is this book for? Maud is most helpful when linking poems to Thomas's life. Nevertheless, a Thomas tyro would be better off with John Ackerman's A Dylan Thomas Companion. A specialist, I feel, is likely to find these explications as frustrating as I did.

Richard Poole

It is possible to use this review for promotional purposes, but the following acknowledgment should be included: A review from www.gwales.com, with the permission of the Welsh Books Council.

Gellir defnyddio'r adolygiad hwn at bwrpas hybu, ond gofynnir i chi gynnwys y gydnabyddiaeth ganlynol: Adolygiad oddi ar www.gwales.com, trwy ganiatâd Cyngor Llyfrau Cymru.
Gwybodaeth Bellach:
Where Have the Old Words Got Me?
Explications of Dylan Thomas’s Collected Poems
Ralph Maud
pp xix296 March 2003
paperback £16.99 ISBN 0-7083-1779-0
hardback £40.00 ISBN 0-7083-1780-4
Dylan Thomas is the one of the most well-known poets of the twentieth century, yet much of his poetry is considered obscure and difficult, and readers tend to concentrate on those poems that can be most easily understood.
Where Have the Old Words Got Me? is the authoritative reader’s guide to Dylan Thomas’s Collected Poems, 1934–1953, consisting of detailed explications of every poem in the collection. Working from the principle that Thomas’s biography offers the key to his poetry, Ralph Maud integrates critical commentary with biographical detail to elucidate Thomas’s works. His aim is to allow readers to better understand the complex imagery and narrative movements of Thomas’s work and to provide the basis for renewed critical investigation of the poetry.
Ralph Maud is a world-renowned expert on Dylan Thomas, as well as the co-editor of the standard edition of Thomas’s work.
Where Have the Old Words Got Me? is the culmination of his lifetime’s study of Thomas’s poetry. It will be essential reading for all those interested in the life and works of Dylan Thomas, from academic specialists to the general reader.
Ralph Maud is Emeritus Professor of English and Associate of the Institute for the Humanities at Simon Fraser University, British Columbia. He has edited much of Dylan Thomas’s work, including The Notebook Poems, 1930–1934 and The Broadcasts, and is co-editor, with Walford Davies, of The Collected Poems, 1934–1953 and Under Milk Wood. In addition to a critical study, Entrances to Dylan Thomas’s Poetry (1963), he is also the author of Charles Olson’s Reading (1996) and the editor of The Selected Letters of Charles Olson (2000).
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