"Dylan played the tortured poet to the hilt and made the world exciting
LAST WEEK Dylan Thomas was back in the news.
Reviews of the new film about him were not very enthusiastic, but it acted as a reminder that his name in a headline still has the power to attract attention. There were pages of reminiscence and commentary in the broadsheets, and some scripts he wrote for a propaganda film in the war were dug up and extracts were printed.
There was also a re-showing on TV of the film of Under Milk Wood. It was the one featuring Burton and Taylor and a whole string of celebs making tiny cameo appearances - blink and you'd miss them. Television in June can be heaven for sports fans but pretty arid for anybody else, so this welcome revival came up as fresh as paint.
I'd forgotten Ryan Davies was in it. He was unscripted, just hanging around, fitting beautifully into the Llareggub scenery. In future years, people may ask: "Who was that guy? What's he doing there?" But when the film was made, he was the living proof that if you love the people you were brought up with, you can laugh at them to your heart's content and they'll never take offence.
Dylan was in two minds about them, so Wales was in two minds about him: he had detesters as well as admirers. He had a split personality in other ways too. He was partly the man who sat for hours in that boat-house in the deadly serious practice of his "craft or sullen art".
The rest of the time, when he was in company or drunk, he was a hambo, living the part he'd created for himself. It was frankly rather a corny role: the no-good boyo, the drunken womaniser and scandaliser of the bourgeoisie, the beautiful youth doomed to a tragic life and an early death.
But he played it up to the hilt, even after hewas getting a bit sickof it. (Some people-the ones he spongedon, and some in whose houses he stayed - had got sick of it at an earlier stage.) The last act was very largely of his own scripting. He'd foretold he wouldn't live to 40. He kept his word.
Most writers of prose don't feel obliged to behave like that. They're allowed to keep office hours, pay their taxes, be faithful to their wives if that's what turns them on, and put all their wild imaginings into their books.
Even some poets do that.
They may work for the government like John Milton, in a bank likeTSEliot, or a library like Philip Larkin, and still write immortal lines.
But Dylan was the kind Shakespeare typecast when he wrote of "the poet's eye, in a fine frenzy rolling".
He set out to be the Rimbaud of Cwmdonk in Drive and he achieved it.
For many who knew him best, the world became a sadder and a duller place when he took leave of it."
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|Publication:||Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)|
|Date:||Jun 27, 2008|
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