AND DEATH SHALL HAVE NO DOMINION: Dylan Thomas, Friedrich Nietzsche and Tragic Joy

dylan-thomas-hires-cropped

 

It is typical of the physically weak to emphasise the strength of life (Nietzsche); of the apprehensive and complex-ridden to emphasise its naiveté and dark wholesomeness (D.H. Lawrence); of the naked-nerved and blood timid to emphasise its brutality and horror (Me!)[1]

Dylan Thomas, “Letter to Pamela Hansford Johnson”, 1933.

For the God he praised is a pagan deity. Pagan is the “raging moon,” pagan is the worship of the trees, the night, the sun, and the sea; pagan are the visions of rebirth from fire and the burning stars; pagan are the images drawn from the deep well of the unconscious self and mingled with Welsh myth, folklore, and ancient rites; pagan is the animistic infusion of nature with these private visions; pagan is the celebration of this world and its joys and sorrows, and the refusal to be comforted by the blessings of another; pagan is the absence of symbols of guilt and sin to account for human failure and suffering; and pagan is the transubstantiation of religious symbols into the natural order of things.[2]

Hans Meyerhoff, “The Violence of Dylan Thomas,” 1955.

What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not an end: what can be loved in man is that he is an overture and a going under.[3]

           Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

 

Dylan Thomas in Exile

Dylan Thomas’ path toward modernist English poetry was laid bare when he was a child. He was not taught the Welsh language deliberately – a decision taken by his father David John Thomas, a head teacher of English literature and an un-forked poet.[4] David, who was himself bi-lingual and taught Welsh lessons in his own home, inundated his son Dylan with sounds and books of English words, introducing him to the great works of English literature, including modernist poetry, psychology and philosophy. Thomas began to write poetry as a child, – the “Rimbaud of Cwmdonkin Drive”[5] – and quickly began to edit his high school’s literary journal. Already involved in advanced intellectual, artistic and poetological questions and endeavours, Thomas, before the age of twenty, filled up notebooks with works which would, all in all, constitute around half of his poetic output – not counting his prose, screenplays, radio plays and short stories. Indeed, he showed no interest in other subjects, recognising very early that he would be a poet and writer.

Dylan Thomas left school at sixteen and began to work as a reporter. He fashioned journals and wrote poetry, and, after three years, published his first collection, Eighteen Poems, in 1933. This event paradoxically assured his exile from an “easy” life in quasi-traditionalist Wales. With his success, he began to roam the streets, pubs and salons of London, coming into contact with the state of the art of modernist poetics. Of course, just as quickly, he would return to Wales, for as he said in a letter, “Cities are death.”[6]  His nomadic, uneasy existence as a poet – and one in the English language – continued throughout his life, as he was caught in a web between Wales, London and later America. It was the utter lack of employment opportunities in Wales – especially as a poet – and his refusal to even consider another vocation – that gave birth to his permanent exile.  If one wished to be a Modern poet, one had to be in London or America – surely not in Wales (unless one could make one’s lucre elsewhere). Landing work with the BBC was later a great boon for Dylan Thomas, who contributed an English speaking Welsh perspective to the public corporation’s offerings. Under the neo-colonial thumb of British culture, the Welsh public and cultural spheres were and still are dominated by England and its media corporations, publishing houses and academic institutions.

It is not clear if this was David Johnson’s intention, but he is known to have been proud that his son had produced lyrical poetry and work of international significance. Nevertheless, he merely opened the door for Thomas, who went through willingly, single-mindedly working to create his own mytho-poetic world through the articulation of his lyrical, psychological and philosophical orientations and sensibilities. But, while his orientations were often centred around the tragic and brutal character of existence, of mortality, it was his longing for the Welsh landscape and its intimacy with nature which provided him with a sense of tragic joy, of the power of life (the concern of the physically weak), of the force of the “green fuse.”[7]  Indeed, Dylan Thomas acted as the Welsh druidic bard in his artistic channelling of the voices of his people[8], his wife, children and lifeworld, of the wind, the raging moon and the sea.  His father may have sought to make it “easy” for his son by giving him the language of the hegemonic power, but he could take away neither the accent of his voice, nor his perennial feelings of homelessness from Wales, necessitated by his extravagant exile.

Though his own life ended in the contradiction of his tragic existence, dead in New York in 1953, Dylan Thomas has been welcomed home in contemporary Wales, his legacy evidenced by the 2014 celebration of the Centenary of his birth. He is a celebrated son of a Wales that has enshrined bi-lingualism in its National Parliament. “Too English for the Welsh, Too Welsh for the English,”[9] Dylan Thomas died trying to escape the double bind of his predicament, though, as tragic, and intentionally so, he burned himself out through the ecstatic character of his lifestyle, his bohemian ethos – his own festival of tragic joy. Some would wish, as we will see, to bring sobriety to our view of Dylan Thomas, to pick his bones clean of any flesh, and to put to sleep or expunge his most riotous effects upon the youth (and patronisingly insulting adolescence in the process). On the contrary, however, it is precisely his eccentric rebellion that matters most about him as a tragic poet – especially one who also produced great works. That he is human, flawed, suffering, but also joyful and ecstatic, a creature of flesh and intoxication – and dying untimely – this makes him tragic in a way that allows people to empathise with him – in the first instance. The rebellion of youth may be “embarrassing” for those who have acquiesced to the nihilism of otherworldly hopes, but such denial of the tragic character of existence and fleeting possibility of joy is only a regretful revenge against the force of life, one provoked by the imminence of the night.

To read the rest of the essay, please visit And Death Shall Have No Dominion.

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#LetGreeceBreathe MASS DEMO FEB 15, 2015 Trafalgar Square, London

Athens Without Slavery: The Battle for Europe – Syriza the the New European Left

Go to: “They Destroy, We Create: The Anti-Austerity UK Alliance” in Planet Magazine: The Welsh Internationalist

Athens Without Slavery:

The Battle for Europe

Syriza the the New European Left

James Luchte

‘First We Take Manhattan, Then We Take Berlin’ – Leonard Cohen

‘First We Take Athens, Then We Take Madrid’ – Syriza with Podemos

‘First We Take Athens, Then We Take London’ – Anti-Austerity UK

‘A Spectre is Haunting Europe…’ – Karl Marx

Rise Up Europe - Syriza Youth

European Democracy and the Limits of American Hegemony

A spectre is haunting Europe, the spectre of Greek democracy.

We have been here before in Greece, of course… at least four times.

First, there is the celebrated original emergence of democracy millennia ago; second, the Greek War of Liberation from the Turks (1821-1832), immortalised by the poet Bryron; third, the attempt by Leftist partisan organisations (EAM, KKE, ELAS) to form a Provisional Government in 1946 (in the stead of the Right-Monarchist government, returned from exile, and elected in 1946 in elections which the Left had boycotted), but defeated by the intervention of the United States and the United Kingdom, thus beginning the Greek Civil War (1946-1949), which ended with thousands of deaths and Greek membership of NATO; and fourth, the re-emergence of democracy in 1974 after the fall of the US backed military junta installed in the 1967 pre-elections coup d’etat, the so-called ‘General’s Coup’, eventually replaced by the government of exiled Constantine Karamanlis, which put the monarchy up for a referendum, and with its rejection by the people, negotiated a new presidential constitution, and inaugurated the Greek Republic in 1975.

And, now, fifth, with the people’s mandate, Syriza, the Coalition of the Radical Left, has taken power in Athens – not ironically with the help or participation of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), who were re-legalised in 1974 – promising the people of Greece not only the ‘end of austerity’, privatisation, unfair strike laws, among other transformations, but also, and more fundamentally, the end to the system of oligarchy, propped up by seventy years of external intervention and centrist-conservative governance (New Democracy or PASOK).

Indeed, as we have repeatedly seen in recent modern and contemporary histories, democracy, the vote, the pebble (psḗphos) of the people does not often seem sufficient to challenge the hegemonic narrative of the victor of the war of Europe, the United States.

To read the rest of the essay, please visit Athen Without Slavery: The Battle for Europe

Go to: MASS EMERGENCY DEMOS IN SUPPORT OF SYRIZA AND THE PEOPLE OF GREECE, FEB 11th Big Ben 6:30PM & 15TH TRAFALGAR SQUARE 1 PM

Let Greece Breathe! Support Syriza and the Greek People! EMERGENCY MASS DEMOS IN LONDON

Let Greece Breathe!

Support Syriza and the Greek People!

MASS DEMOS LONDON

BIG BEN, London, Wednesday, February 11th, 6:30PM

TRAFALGAR SQUARE, London, Sunday, February 15th, 1PM

For those who cannot get to London, it is recommended that you hold DEMOS in your own favourite Squares.

Go to: “They Destroy, We Create: The Anti-Austerity UK Alliance” in Planet Magazine: The Welsh Internationalist

Go to: Athens Without Slavery: The Battle For Europe – Syriza and the New European Left

Rise Up Europe Greece Solidarity Campaign FEB 11-15

ΣΥΡΙΖΑ κερδίζει – Syriza Wins!

Go to: “They Destroy, We Create: The Anti-Austerity UK Alliance” in Planet Magazine: The Welsh Internationalist

Go to: Athens Without Slavery: The Battle For Europe – Syriza and the New European Left

__________________________

ΣΥΡΙΖΑ κερδίζει – Syriza Wins!

The people of Greece have voted for a better future for their children, themselves, and for the myriad peoples of the world.

All of us have suffered long enough from the fraudulent project of Austerity, a cruel, utterly thoughtless, and unnecessary deconstruction/destruction/theft of the Public Realm.

Syriza Wins Greek Elections

We celebrate the victory of Syriza, who taught us that ‘Austerity is the crisis itself.’

Let us join with the Anti-Austerity UK alliance of Plaid Cymru – The Party of Wales, the Scottish National Party  and The Green Party in the fight in the United Kingdom against austerity and nuclear weapons, in order to build a world where there are sound and smart public services and a strong NHS.

We all need to continue to work together to strengthen the European and World Movement Against the CRISES of Austerity and Neo-Liberalism.

At the Syriza Victory Rally in London on 28 Janary 2015 at the TUC Congress House, a representative of the new Syriza government warned that much pressure will be placed upon the new anti-Austerity government in Greece and that the best way for us to support their revolution is to mobilise strong anti-austerity movements in our own countries.

We must do everything we can to continue to energise the already existing Anti-Austerity movement, and now with the inclusion in the debates and a viable chance of political expression and representation, work to hold the ‘balance of power’ in a hung parliament.  A strong movement and humane government here will benefit the peoples of the the United Kingdom, Europe and the rest of the world – and will prevent another Allende unfolding for the first Left government in European history.

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Go to: Write to Ofcom, Demanding Inclusion, Diversity & Equality in the Leaders Debates and Make A FOI Request on the Equality Act of 2010

The British Wasteland: A History of the Present – Daily Wales: News of a Sovereign Nation

Introduction: Whispers of a Forgotten Nation – The Writings of Dr D. Ceri Evans

Welsh Dragon

As I have not worried to be born, I do not worry to die.
Federico Garcia Lorca (1898-1936)

Ceri Evans (1965-2002) died in the same month, in August, as the Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca, who was murdered by the Fascist regime in 1936. In one of the tributes to Ceri Evans after his death, Terry Conway tells of a gift of a book of Lorca’s poetry which she had received from Dr Evans. Terry Conway makes this comparison of Lorca and Evans:

Here too was someone who had a passionate relationship with the place he was from, but was also a confirmed internationalist. Here too was someone for whom political ideas were not just found in theory, but in song, in dream, in all the small things of everyday life. (Whispers of a Forgotten Nation, p. 7)

In her elegant brevity, Conway captures both the spirit of Ceri Evans and his dialectical method in relation to the national and international movements for social justice and freedom. Evans lived the slogan ‘Think globally, Act locally.’ He fought simultaneously for historical justice in his native Wales, and, in the context of his perspective as an international socialist, for the eventual realisation of a global democratic socialist community, in which nations would enjoy equality, mutual aid and peaceful cooperation. Indeed, for Evans, the national question was inseparable from the struggle for international socialism.

Ceri Evans was a unique and creative thinker, at once a philosopher and activist (and with the mind of an engineer). He was a revolutionary socialist who wished to learn from the revolutionaries of the past, such as Lenin and Trotsky, but never merely to turn these ‘Great Men’ into dogmatic idols. He repeats this mantra over and over again in his theoretical and practical writings – that there is much to learn from these revolutionaries of the past and present, who have more experience and knowledge with respect to the building and enactment of revolutionary transformation. Yet, Ceri Evans had a mind of his own and assertively set forth his criticisms of these ‘Great Men’. In this way, he has enduring relevance as an original thinker and practical example for the understanding and practise of Welsh politics, and revolutionary politics as such.

This collection contains nearly thirty essays, discussion documents, presentations and other pieces from between 1990-2002, arguably one of the most important periods in the history of Welsh politics. These writings range from purely philosophical pieces, such as ‘Dialectics’, explorations of political philosophy, as in ‘Ten Draft Points on the National Question,’ to extremely concrete analyses and discussion documents of current political struggles in which he was continuously immersed, as with his writings on the Welsh language, the Welsh Assembly, Europe, Ireland, Israel, and the national struggles in Eastern Europe. In an uncanny manner, reading these essays resembles the experience of opening up a ‘time capsule’, one left as a legacy for those of us who would continue the struggle in the future. The ‘time capsule’ is open, and the documents it contains are a gift from the past.

To read the rest of this Introduction and to go to the writings of Dr D. Ceri Evans themselves, please visit Introduction – Whispers of a Forgotten Nation: The Writings of Dr D. Ceri Evans.

Dylan Thomas in Exile

This poem concerns, among other things, such as the ebb and flow of popular resistance, Dylan Thomas as a Welsh poet who lived a life devoted to the truth of the unique Welsh experience and its people. 

***

Dylan Thomas

 

Dylan,

the second wave

The wave floods

The flood recedes

The tide returns

seethe in anger
darkest season
the poet is silenced

they will run him from his home

To read the rest of the poem, please visit Dylan Thomas in Exile

Divided We Fall – Plaid Cymru and the Green Agenda

Divided We Fall

Plaid Cymru and the Green Agenda

Why Greens should Vote for Plaid Cymru in the General Elections of 2015

Green Dragon - Plaid Cymru

Divided We Fall – Plaid Cymru and the Green Agenda

From ‘Agoriad’ (‘Opening’)

Mewn glesni, tesni’n lasgu,
cwmysg â’r glas sy’n llathru,
Croeso rhwng dwy ynys- hen gynghanedd
ger y moroedd garw- llaw tangnefedd.

In the blue calm, sunburst of radiance
– the green light that shines with charity
the welcome of two isles – old harmony
by the rough seas – a hand of tranquility.

Menna Elfyn – Professor of Poetry, UWTSD

Opening

There is a considerable array of serious decisions that will have to be made by the people in the upcoming UK General Elections of 2015.

By people, I mean the vast multitude of individual working citizens for whose interests and representation the Parliament in Westminster was originally established.

By decision, I do not mean some arbitrary choice, or some choosing of a product in a shop, but one that involves thought and deliberation – and only then a choice.

In the context of decision-making, it is never sufficient to simply remain within a boxed mentality or echo chamber, captivated by the habit of custom which merely accepts the status quo and its erratic, though familiar, surface narrative.

One must look beyond the surface of the headlines and investigate the root causes and truths which stand behind the powers that be. It is toward the facilitation of such an investigation that the following essay is written.

To read the rest of the essay, please visit Divided We Fall – Plaid Cymru and the Green Agenda

Discovering Plaid Cymru, the Party of Wales

Plaid Cymru, the Party of Wales

Plaid Cymru, the Party of Wales

The following essay, the fourth in a series of pieces engaged in Welsh and British politics, takes the position that the manifold deficits upon the Welsh political and economic landscape cannot be resolved by the current constitutional arrangement of the United Kingdom.  Moreover, against the background of the obsolescence of the constitutional order, Plaid Cymru, the Party of Wales will be introduced as an experienced and progressive voice in the Welsh experience, and as an option for an increasingly broad array of citizens in the General Elections of 2015.  Despite the fact that it has been around since 1925, still  too few in Wales itself know about a political party which is New Left, Green, Socially Liberal, Internationalist and Pro-Europe.  What makes Plaid Cymru different from the Westminster parties, including the Greens, is that the Party of Wales no longer believes that Westminster will or can fulfill the aspirations of the people of Wales for a better life.   Wales, in this light, needs a voice and direction of its own.

To read the essay, please visit Discovering Plaid Cymru, the Party of Wales

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