Tom Hollander as Dylan Thomas
Dylan Marlais Thomas (27 October 1914 – 9 November 1953) was a Welsh poet and writer whose works include the poems "Do not go gentle into that good night" and "And death shall have no dominion", the "play for voices", Under Milk Wood, and stories and radio broadcasts such as A Child's Christmas in Wales and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog. He became popular in his lifetime and remained so after his premature death in New York. In his later life he acquired a reputation, which he encouraged, as a "roistering, drunken and doomed poet".
I have read some of Thomas's poetry and heard part of 'Under Milk Wood'. I cannot pretend to enjoy his work as it is like that of most poets, intensely personal. It seems to me that the products of writing poetry is as close to the soul of the writer as you can get without being actually inside their heads. As such poetry does not resonate with everyone.
In the case of Thomas he was a deep thinking, hurting and in some ways, broken man. The BBC dramatisation showed much of this and his problems with relationships as a result. He seemed to use alcohol as many do - a barrier between himself and others and anaesthetic against the pain he felt in day-to-day living.
During his life Thomas was more popular in the USA than in his native UK but his work, or legacy, is popular worldwide. I enjoyed
'Don't go gentle into that good night' in particular.
I read Caleb Pirtle's blog about improving one's writing by becoming a member of a good critique group. He described how a good group would consist of five or six people, that only four or five pages at a time should be read and that you needed to be thick skinned. It made me think about Dylan Thomas and other famous writers. Although I have loads of respect for Caleb and appreciate how supportive he is to me and other writers in more ways than one, I have a problem with self-analysis and the, for me, painful process of review. For me those who review as a profession remind me of the saying about teachers,
those who can - do, those who can't teach
so for reviewers,
those who can - write, those who can't review
The attitude comes from my own insecurities and the 'thick skinned' part of the requirements to be a member of a critique group would never be thick enough to prevent a feeling of being crushed at negative feedback. It may seem pathetic to those of you who put yourselves through that particular exercise and I admire your courage but writers like Thomas wrote because of the need to write rather like an artist paints because that is the way in which they express themselves most successfully.
The writing is like any artistic endeavour, it comes from inside, the physical skills can be practised and improved upon but the art is personal. Critique groups can improve the basics of writing of that I have no doubt but a writer should write from inside. Charles Dickens in his early years was not considered a skilful writer in the grammatical sense and yet his stories have lasted for over 150 years.