The Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion

Recognising the contribution of Wales in contemporary society

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home > Transactions > Volume 21 - 2015 > ‘There’s words’: Dylan Thomas, Swansea, and Language

‘There’s words’: Dylan Thomas, Swansea, and Language

Dylan loved people and loved Swansea. Even the eccentrics and odd characters were his kinsfolk be they Swansea people.2

The words are those of one of Thomas’s closest friends, Bert Trick, and they seem to me to be a fair summary of the positive aspects of the relationship between the poet and his hometown. The negative aspects, mostly limited to that period in late adolescence when he morosely viewed Swansea as the provincial graveyard of his burgeoning talent, are lividly recorded in the self-dramatizing letters he sent to his young London girlfriend, Pamela Hansford Johnson.

It is still possible, in one sense, to tour Thomas’s Swansea. Yet in another, more important, sense it is not. That is not only because such a substantial part of what he loved about the place was obliterated during three dreadful nights of air-raid in February, 1941. It is more importantly because a writer’s town can be accessed by only one route – through that author’s writings. We might even say that, as an inveterate writer, Thomas turned his town into words. But then, it was Swansea that had first set him on the way to becoming himself a figure fashioned out of language; a linguistic sign. Instead of word being made flesh, in his case flesh eventually ended up being made word.

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