18 pages 36 minutes read

Dylan Thomas

All That I Owe the Fellows of the Grave

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1933

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Literary Context

Locating Dylan Thomas along any literary timeline of influence is problematic. Painfully aware that he did not have the polish of a college degree and concerned that the elitist poetry establishment in London would dismiss him as an untutored provincial from the Welsh countryside, Thomas dedicated himself to an ambitious study of poetry. He was a voracious reader, and his poetry (particularly of the 1930s) reflects his familiarity with a wide field of influences, most of which are evinced only subtly in poetry that otherwise strove for idiosyncrasy. Thomas perceived himself (and presented himself) as an original, a sui generis, although his copious notebooks attest to these influences.

Thomas’s literary context begins with his subversive wordplay. Schooled by his father’s often theatrical readings of a wide range of poetry as a kind of family entertainment, Thomas early on engaged poetry primarily as a verbal construct; a subtle manipulation of language empowered the poet’s creation not only with words, but through them. Poetry was intended to delight readers, upend their every expectation about language itself. Poetry, whatever its subject, was ludic by design.

Poetry, for Thomas, unsettles and even intimidates. Thomas forged a unique alloy that fused diverse literary influences and created something original.