Posted on | April 12, 2012 | No Comments
Donatien Alphonse François, Marquis de Sade (2 June 1740 – 2 December 1814), Leopold Ritter von Sacher-Masoch (27 January 1836 – 9 March 1895) and Dylan Marlais Thomas (27 October 1914 – 9 November 1953)
Three writers not often mentioned in the same heavy breath but a recent addition to my Dylan Thomas collection has prompted me to think along these lines.
Fresh Girls & Other Stories by EVELYN LAU is an intriguing collection of short prose fictions. It was published in 1993 by Harper Collins in Toronto in their series of ‘Saturday Night Books’. The dust jacket blurbs will give you an idea of what we are dealing with:
“What Ann Rice does for Vampires Evelyn Lau does for sex: fills us with a kind of longing for perverse pleasure and pain.”
“… Lau explores realms of sexuality which might seem foreign and bizarre “
“Lau explores the forbidden”
And we learn more by delving into a little of Lau’s biography – .Born Vancouver 1971, at 17 after living on the streets of Vancouver for two years she writes the bestselling ‘Runaway: The Diary of a Street Kid’ [ blurb- ‘An unforgettable and true story of a young girls life on the street’]. This is made into CBC TV film, but Wiki’ has it thus:
Lau was born in Vancouver, British Columbia to Chinese-Canadian parents, who intended for her to eventually become a doctor. Her parents’ ambitions for her were wholly irreconcilable with her own; consequently, her home and school lives were desperately unhappy. In 1986 she ran away from her unbearable existence as a pariah in school and tyrannized daughter at home.
Evelyn Lau began publishing poetry at the age of 12; her creative efforts helped her escape the pressure of home and school. In 1985, at age 14, Lau left home and spent the next several years living itinerantly in Vancouver as a homelessperson, sleeping mainly in shelters, friends’ homes and on the street. She also became involved in prostitution and drug abuse.
Evelyn Lau is now a successful writer and poet but Fresh Girls was her first book. There are ten stories in the book and it is the eighth story which intrigues me most.
It is entitled MERCY and it opens:
“It is your wife’s fortieth birthday, and I am torturing you to the sounds of a tape of Dylan Thomas giving a poetry recital. His voice is theatrical, and at times it hovers at the edges of breaking into song. ‘Do not go gentle into that good night… Rage, rage against the dying of the light…’”
His words, charged with command, seem to pulse through my own body. Obediently I slip the spiked heel of my shoe into your mouth.”
And it goes on thus for nine pages, S&M to the tune of Dylan’s great elegy for his blind and dying father:
“I will not go gentle into you. The high heel of my shoe is your mouth….
“’Old age should burn and rave at close of day,’ Thomas instructs sternly. Perhaps only in the clutches of pain, when your eyes are closed and your lips are forced apart, does the day seem long.”
And the last paragraph begins:
“It is your wife’s fortieth birthday and Dylan Thomas’s voice slows to a stop on the tape. You edge out the door with the sun bouncing off your glasses and your briefcase tucked under your arm.”
I like the story but how will I feel at the next Welsh funeral when this poem is sombrely intoned – what images will leap into my mind. I fear it will never be the same again.
And then this story reminded me of another long lost conflagration of this terrible trio – Thomas, de Sade and Mascoch. An artwork I have had for some decades – A temporary installation by Bradford born, but Swansea based artist Paul Darden, photographed by Swansea photographer [and drummer] John Corbett ‘in situ’ at the Dylan Thomas Memorial Stone in Cwmdonkin Park Swansea. Not a great Dylan Thomas fan, Durden is often to be found ‘singing in his chains like the sea’ while dressed only in this, his Sunday best, leather and steel posing pouch…. And now the original is evading my attic search but when I find the image, – a leather and chain posing pouch draped on the memorial stone which is inscribed with the words from the end of Dylan’s greatest poem – FERN HILL – “Though I sang in my chains like the sea” – it will get posted here.
A writer as well as an artist Paul co-wrote the script to the classic Welsh Film Twin Town starring Rhys Ifans and his brother. The film is a dazzling funny, sordid, loving but brutal depiction of the East/West, Have/Have Nots dichotomy that is Swansea City in all its horrible glory at the close of the twentieth century. The script quotes Dylan Thomas who also alluded to this dichotomy, describing his Swansea Town as an ‘UGLY LOVELY TOWN’. I urge you to watch it if it passed you by.
SCENE 10. EXT.SWANSEA RAILWAY STATION. DAY
GREYO and Terry are leaning against the wall, beside the large automatic double door. They are smoking cigarettes. Terry is staring at a huge mosaic sign set into the pavement concourse in front of them. It’s not graffiti, it’s a sign. It reads… “ AMBITION IS CRITICAL”
What the fuck does that mean Greyo ?
That. Ambition is fucking critical
It says ambition is critical. There’s no FUCKING in it. It’s a play on words.
The poet, Dylan Thomas. He said Swansea is the graveyard of ambition. He was right.
Did he write that?
No! The council wrote that. Or they probably employed another poet to do a little ditty and he…or she, came up with that. Ambition is critical.
Three words. They got a poet to do three words! You call that a fucking poem?
You can have as many words as you like in a poem, it doesn’t matter.
Is it supposed to be funny?
No. It is supposed to be clever. Dylan Thomas also called Swansea an ugly lovely town
I’d call it a pretty shitty city.
Yeah, but Dylan Thomas didn’t do as much fuckin’ cocaine as you, did he?
At least mine fucking rhymes! Three words ‘an all. Pretty. Shitty. City. I fucking like that. Pretty shitty city. Pretty shitty city. Three fucking words. I likes that.
[We later learn that Greyo and Terry are bastions of the local police drug squad!]
[WATCH THE FILM TO FIND OUT MORE]