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Cultivating Poetry and Poetic Criticism

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Interpretation Assistance [Jul. 18th, 2005|11:11 am]
Cultivating Poetry and Poetic Criticism


Okay, I posted this in greatpoets a bit ago with no results.

Long story short, I have a friend who's kind of getting into Dylan Thomas. He found "My World Is Pyramid" and neither of us can make much heads or tails of it.

My World Is Pyramid by Dylan Thomas

Half of the fellow father as he doubles
His sea-sucked Adam in the hollow hulk,
Half of the fellow mother as she dabbles
To-morrow's diver in her horny milk,
Bisected shadows on the thunder's bone
Bolt for the salt unborn.

The fellow half was frozen as it bubbled
Corrosive spring out of the iceberg's crop,
The fellow seed and shadow as it babbled
The swing of milk was tufted in the pap,
For half of love was planted in the lost,
And the unplanted ghost.

The broken halves are fellowed in a cripple,
The crutch that marrow taps upon their sleep,
Limp in the street of sea, among the rabble
Of tide-tongued heads and bladders in the deep,
And stake the sleepers in the savage grave
That the vampire laugh.

The patchwork halves were cloven as they scudded
The wild pigs' wood, and slime upon the trees,
Sucking the dark, kissed on the cyanide,
And loosed the braiding adders from their hairs;
Rotating halves are horning as they drill
The arterial angel.

What color is glory? death's feather? tremble
The halves that pierce the pin's point in the air,
And prick the thumb-stained heaven through the thimble.
The ghost is dumb that stammered in the straw,
The ghost that hatched his havoc as he flew
Blinds their cloud-tracking eye.

My world is pyramid. The padded mummer
Weeps on the desert ochew and the salt
Incising summer.
My Egypt's armour buckling in its sheet,
I scrape though resin to a starry bone
And a blood parhelion.

My world is cypress, and an English valley.
I pierce my flesh that rattled on the yards
Red in an Austrian volley.
I hear, through dead men's drums, the riddled lads,
Strewing their bowels from a hill of bones,
Cry Eloi to the drums.

My grave is watered by the crossing Jordan.
The Artic scut, and basin of the South,
Drip on my dead house garden.
Who seek me landward, marking in my mouth
The straws of Asia, lose me as I turn
Through the Alantic corn.

The fellow-halves that, cloven as they swivel
On casting tides, are tangled in the shells,
Bearding the unborn devil,
Blood from my burning fork and smell my heels.
The tongues of heaven gossip as I glide
Binding my angel's hood.

Who blows death's feather? What glory is colour?
I blow the stammel feather in the vein.
The loin is glory in a working pallor.
My clay unsuckled and my salt unborn,
The secret child, I shift about the sea
Dry in the half-tracked thigh.

As a more general topic -- how does one go about interpreting dense verse like this? Is this poem dense because of literary allusions neither of us know, or was Dylan just doing a lot of drugs that day? My friend found an annotation that basically said it was a metaphor for a son sucking the life out of his parents, but how do you get from Point A to Point B without relying on a literary critic? Neither of us are English majors or specialists, but I don't really think it should be THAT much of a barrier. Or is it?

I've also had other people ask me for tips on interpreting poems -- those poems I was on a bit more solid ground to try and explain, but how do you go about teaching someone to interpret poetry that's not immediately obvious?

I hope this is an okay post to make; I figure this sort of stuff is part of the accepted discussion biz here.

[User Picture]From: whentunder
2005-09-18 10:46 pm (UTC)
i have been wondering these same things. it sure would be nice if people would answer your questions, because i can't.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: coyotecult
2005-09-18 10:49 pm (UTC)


He ended up posting it to the PFFA here and got some answers, if you're interested!
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: whentunder
2005-09-18 10:51 pm (UTC)

Re: Well

very much so, thank you.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)