Published in anticipation of the centenary of the poet’s birth, The Poetry of Dylan Thomas is the first study of the poet to show how his work may be read in terms of contemporary critical concerns, using theories of modernism, the body, gender, the carnivalesque, language, hybridity and the pastoral in order to view it in an original light. Moreover, in presenting a Dylan Thomas who has real significance for twenty-first century readers, it shows that such a reappraisal also requires us to re-think some of the ways in which all post-Waste Land British poetry has been read in the last few decades.
Written with élan, dexterity and wit, and with an immersion in both critical theory and the history of twentieth century poetry, Under the Spelling Wall has a natural authority, as well as a decisive narrative drive. The range of works proposed for inclusion, and the way in which they are interrelated represents something magnificent in contemporary criticism, a lauding of complexity not in the abstract but in the minutiae of what was published, and how that occurred. The reading of ‘Altarwise by Owl-light’ is sublimely good and the work on ‘Fern Hill’ is the most impressive I have ever seen on this poem. It is a model of the single author studies that are formative to a (renewed) critical direction.
In many ways this is a brilliant book. Not only does it offer cogent advocacy of Thomas’s strength and interest as a poet, it also does so in terms of a many-aspected, adroit and illuminating deployment of the theoretical discourses which have emerged over the last forty years. These two endeavours are, as they should be, mutually reinforcing: the theories really do prove themselves to be illuminating about Thomas, and as a result we feel that Thomas can speak to our contemporary condition and understanding. The argument is passionate, and makes no pretence at any aim other than reasserting the greatness of Thomas’s work.
Ed Larrissey, Queen's University Belfast
The definitive modern reappraisal of Thomas's poetry ... Goodby's arguments are compelling and draw upon his experience both as a critic and as a practising (and prize-winning) poet. ...This is a welcome and overdue book which will do much to stimulate interest in Dylan Thomas as we approach the centenary of his birth.
A great book ... Dylan Thomas for our generation, alive and entire.
This is a fascinating example of how profoundly enlivening and intellectually challenging the single-author study can be. That this is only the beginning – one hopes – of a serious reconsideration of Thomas’ poetry suddenly makes the present a great place to be.
Amy McCauley, New Welsh Review
New Welsh Review