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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: June 2012

21 - The Irish Dylan Thomas: versions and influences


In 2006 a horse named ‘Dylan Thomas’ won the Budweiser Irish Derby at the Curragh in County Kildare. One wonders what the ghost of the Irish poet and dedicated follower of racing form, Patrick Kavanagh, made of that turn-up for the books. Did he place a spectral bet on the favourite, named for a Welsh poet he had once admired for ‘fresh young attitude and vocabulary’, and a poet he had at one time seen as possessed of ‘the blood of life as it is lived’. Did he remember that he had also opined: ‘As far as I am concerned, Auden and Dylan Thomas, Moravia, Sartre, Pound are all Irish poets. They have all said the thing that delighted me, a man born in Ireland’ and put his celestial shirt on Dylan Thomas, whatever the odds (9 to 2, in fact). Or did he recall with bitterness that when he had been introduced to Thomas in London in 1951 (he was hoping for regular work with the BBC, where the Welsh poet was a less than securely ensconced broadcaster, alert one supposes, to a possible rival), Thomas had immediately, to quote Kavanagh's biographer, ‘launched into a broad, offensive imitation of his accent’ causing considerable hurt? If that came to mind in the afterlife, we may perhaps imagine the Mucker poet betting on any horse but Dylan Thomas, the name of a writer whose life and death as broth-of-a-boy, cadger, showman, backer of horses and drunk so resembled that of Dubliner Brendan Behan, whom Kavanagh loathed.

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