2014 marks the centenary of Dylan Thomas’s birth. In celebration of this, The Folio Society has issued a new selection of his poems, notable, I’d say, not for the poetry which is well known, but for its deft presentation.
Black and white it is. And appropriately so, as these contrasting colours, if they may be called such, feature large in Thomas’s poetry. Most memorably, ” Bible-black”, but also “crow-black”, “tar-black”, “bat-black”.
Pull the volume from its slipcase and the first thing you see on the front board is a striking black and white photograph of Dylan lighting a cigarette. The image is strongly reminiscent of one I recall seeing of John Lennon, another bard of sorts, another rock star – for Dylan was as popular as a rock star, something unheard of at the time for a poet. In fact, it is after him that Bob Dylan chose to name himself.
The photograph’s whites beautifully capture the sheen of Dylan’s Lord Fauntleroy curls, the shine of his silk scarf, the flame of his match, the texture of his sweater.
Opening the book you see the poet at work, in his own hand, text scattered across the end papers, complete with scratch outs and replacement words. Across from the title page, there’s a contact sheet, on glossy paper, that features six images of Dylan in various poses. Similar evocative photos of family and place illustrate and demark the collections from which these poems have been selected.
The title page displays its text in a san serif font, upper and lower case, set beneath Thomas’s distinctive signature, complete with its little twirl on the “D”. Each poem in the book receives a bold san serif title, coupled with serifed text.
The pages of the book provide ample ‘thumbage’ space, lending the type a stark, beautiful legibility against bright white paper. The book has an informative introduction by Owen Sheers, one of Wales’s leading authors, and a helpful, lengthy notes section at the back.
Here’s how Sheers concludes his introduction:
Because, whatever his faults and excesses, he is a poet who we need to have in our lives. A reminder of the nature of the human condition, stripped bare of intellectual masking. A reminder of the natural world given voice with suitable drama and strange wonder. And a reminder that poetry has its roots in music, and always will.
While Thomas’s poems are well known, those chosen here are judiciously selected, and beautifully presented.
Order your copy here.