Distribution Automatique

Thursday, March 11

Adam Phillips (the English psychoanalyst)
says this in a review of a biography
of Dylan Thomas in the London Review of Books
*Dylan Thomas: A New Life*
by Andrew Lycett, Wedefield, October 2003

"Every distinctive poet notices something new about
the language: Thomas's notion was that if you looked
after the sound it didn't matter whether the sense
took care of itself; that it was possiblle to write great poems
without worrying too much about what they meant. The
pleasure one gets from a Thomas poem has nothing
to do with the pleasure of working it out or even the sense
that one day one will be able to work it out; and because it
isn't just a matter of time before you get it- as is the case, say with
John Ashbery- you can't get much literary criticism out of a Thomas

The poet is a comic figure now because his poetry is not funny.
He didn't have a theory about this because he didn't have theories-
or not that kind- but he had noticed something. It was becoming
increasingly difficult for poets to take themselves and what they
did at all seriously. Poetry might matter to people who liked
poetry but it wasn't important."

But this is the strange thing: I've yet to read a single piece
by Adam Philips that is the least bit memorable. But I've thought
about Dylan Thomas' poem *And Death Shall Have No Dominion*
hundreds of times:

And death shall have no dominion
Dead men naked they shall be one
With the man in the wind and the west moon;
When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
They shall stars at elbow and foot;
Though they go mad they shall be sane,
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost, love shall not;
And death have shall no dominion..."

(there are 6 more verses).

What is Phillips talking about? Though I have read this
poem and thought about it so much I have memorized
parts of it, I have yet to be impressed by a single
thing Adam Phillips has written; including his biography
of Winnicott. Adam Phillips is a bore; Dylan Thomas
is an interesting, memorable poet.