20 May 2014

20 May 2014
DEATH POEMS
Just been seeing ‘Poet in New York’ on TV. Marvellous reading of ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’ (Dylan Thomas) by Tom Hollander. It reminded me of 1959, when I had to take five exams in order to get on to my degree course at Birkbeck. I took the philosophy exam and the final exam for the Sociology diploma I had been doing, an A level exam in logic and another one in literature, and a scholarship exam to Birkbeck College. The A level exam in English Literature featured one of those ‘compare and contrast’ questions on two great poems about death – ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’ and John Donne’s ‘Death be not proud’ – two of my favourite poems, so I was lucky with that. The Hollander reading was so brilliant, it brought tears to my eyes. He had obviously been listening to Thomas’ own reading of the poem, and reproduced it faithfully. Dylan Thomas was one of the great readers of his own poems, and I particularly love the way he does ‘After the Funeral’ – one of the great performances, I think. Really moving and shattering. I wish we could hear John Donne reading his own poetry!


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