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Sure, Dylan Thomas was a pretty troubled guy. His life of excess led to an early exit, but the dude could certainly write a poem. He had a knack for writing poems that seem to contain the kind of intensity with which he led his life. Thomas once said of his own poems that they had to be read either very soft or very loud. For Thomas, there was no middle ground. "The Force That through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower" is a super example of this intensity.
Thomas wrote "The Force…" when he was just nineteen, and it was published as part of his first book, 18 Poems, in 1934. 18 Poems received good reviews and helped to establish the young Welsh poet as an important new voice in the poetry world.
In this case, "The Force…" explores some of what would become Thomas's go-to themes, like death and the power of time. In the poem, the speaker makes observations of time's impact on the natural world and connects them to time's impact on his own life.
Tragically, that life was all-too-short. In poor health, and after days of heavy drinking, Dylan Thomas died in 1953 while on a reading tour in New York City. He was 39.
What do you do when you feel something so intensely that you think you might burst? Some people scream into a pillow, others tell their best friend, some might even hit the gym to let off a little steam. And then, of course, there are the criers (you know who you are). But there are some people, like artists, poets, and musicians, that channel those feelings and turn them into something tangible.
Dylan Thomas's poem, "The Force That through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower," is a great example of art that captures that intensity of feeling and puts it into a form other people can experience. (Sure, people can experience you screaming into a pillow, but they probably aren't going to get much out of it.)
By channeling those intense feelings into his poem, Thomas lets us share some of that energy and vitality and perhaps even recognize it in ourselves. If you've ever listened to a great song or seen a really good live performance of some kind, and the hair stood up on the back of your neck, you've felt it. That's you experiencing and sharing in the intensity the artist feels. It's the kind of charge that can be inspirational and it can make you want to get out there and harness some of your own intense feelings, to make them tangible for others to share and experience—the same way that Thomas does with this poem.
Who knows? You might end up becoming the next Dylan Thomas—minus the alcoholism and the untimely death, of course.
Thomas Beginning to End
This Thomas biography tells it all—the good, the bad, and the ugly end.
Do You Love All Things Thomas?
If you said yes, this link is for you. Welcome to The Dylan Thomas Society.
Another Thomas Treasure Trove
If you're not up to joining the Thomas Society, maybe perusing the official Thomas website is more your speed.
Force Inspired Images
Here's a short video project based on "The Force…" Do you think Thomas would like it?
Force Inspired Tunes
We think this is tough to dance to, but see what you think.
One Great Voice Reading Another
Check out actor Richard Burton's reading of "The Force…"
Here's a second version of the poem, read by someone less famous than Richard Burton.
People and Places
Scroll through some images of Dylan, as well as pictures of places he lived in and wrote about.
Thomas Through the Years
Click here to see pictures of a very young Thomas, plus some photos of the poet later in life.
Mark Your Calendar…
It looks like Bob Dylan wants to thank Dylan Thomas for the name.
"Following Dylan Thomas in Wales"
This article from The New York Times looks at the impact of Thomas's homeland on his poetry.
The Book That Contained "The Force…"
Here's a look at Thomas's 1934 book, 18 Poems. (We think the title could have used a little more work.)
18 Poems Not Enough For You?
Here's a look at Thomas's Collected Poems.
Thomas's Life on the Tele
Here are some clips from a BBC television series on Thomas.
Thomas Goes Hollywood
Here's the trailer for Under Milk Wood, a 1972 film based on Thomas's 1954 radio drama of the same name.