Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Old Obscure Poet Contemplates Two Great Young Dead Ones

Dylan Thomas in a characteristic pose before a bookstore reading.

A few years ago, I noticed that Dylan Thomas and Sylvia Plath shared a birthday, October 27—1914 in Wales for him, 1932 in Boston for her.  They had little in common except that they wrote poetry—although poetry very different in form, theme, style, and substance—and died young each in a kind of pitiful squalor.  Each had crossed the ocean and died in the other’s country, a nice cosmic balance.

That year—2012—their common birthday also coincided with a new moon and where I was, at least, a howling storm of darkness. 


Sylvia Plath in a similar venue battling her invisible demons. 

You know me.  I am a sucker for cosmic coincidence.  So, I scribbled a poem for the occasion.

Writing poetry about poets, both infinitely more gifted than I, is an act of terminal hubris for which I shall be justly punished.  But here it is anyway.



How Black the Night

October 26, 2011—New Moon, Dylan Thomas and Sylvia Plath


Even the New Moon hides behind the howling clouds.


Happy Birthday Dylan—

Why did you not

            rage, rage against the dying of the light

            in that pool of your own black vomit

            at the Chelsea?


Happy Birthday Sylvia—

The same year, you dewy goddess,

            you emptied the medicine vials

            and crawled under your mother’s porch.


Not ships passing in the night,

                    but traversing the same black ocean

                    away from home

                    to something else.


Did you find what you were looking for

                    in worship and whiskey,

                    in broken love and madness?


As Dylan moldered under Laugharne,

                    Lady Lazarus, you wrote.


   Is an art, like everything else.

   I do it exceptionally well.


But laying your head in an oven

             is no art

             and posthumous poems

             no resurrection.


How black the night, dead poets,

                    how black the night?


—Patrick Murfin


No comments:

Post a Comment