Singing in my chains like the sea

painted Moleskine
painted Moleskine

The friend from university who first introduced me to Dylan Thomas went into a coma last December, and everyone who knew him left messages on his facebook…in the hopes that he would wake up and know that he’d been missed. In honor of our Thomas connection, I (mis)quoted* these lines from the poem Fern Hill.
painted MoleskineThree weeks ago Luis passed away…a mercy, really, after being so long in coma. We were not close, but his death was made more poignant because he was so young (we were born the same year, 1974). To me it seemed an urgent message to get as much as I can out of this life, because we never know when it will all come to a halt.

The lines of the poem have stayed with me… sometimes I lull myself to sleep with them. Dylan Thomas was a sorcerer of lilting, musical  language…his words dance, surge, rise and ebb like the ocean he was named after. I had a sudden urge to write them out somewhere that I would see them often, and decided to whack them on the cover of this Moleskine watercolor sketchbook. The curly waves were inspired by what I could remember of Hokusai’s Great Wave off Kanagawa.

* …Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea.

Fern Hill by Dylan Thomas


13 thoughts on “Singing in my chains like the sea

  1. The quote grabbed me immediately. I have sung the John Corigliano choral setting of Fern Hill, and it is absolutely gorgeous. He captured Dylan Thomas’ language in the music. The final chord is one of the most amazing endings any piece of music ever had. If you can get hold of a recording, I urge you to listen to the piece. Thanks for the sweet reminder of one of my favorite musical experiences.

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  2. I am very sorry about your friend. Such losses do indeed remind us of the importance to make each day count.

    Your waves are wonderful. Perhaps there is something about the constant ebb and flow of the waves that speaks to something about life and its cycles. Dylan Thomas is a favourite of mine and I was actually just reading ‘Fern Hill’ to my oldest two sons a couple of weeks ago. It is a poem I used to teach my students. It is potent and evocative and linguistically rich in metaphor and sound.

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    1. I love all he does…and kudos to you for bringing the kids up on poetry! What they read is, ultimately, who they will be. I’m crazy, too, about Thomas’ Adventures In The Skin Trade…what an electric collection of short stories! (Though probably not for the kids, until they’re older) The Burning Baby…disturbing, sad and beautiful. Gerard Manley Hopkins is somewhat similar, no? I am thinking of “God’s Grandeur”. I’m not religious, and I think that hewing to an ideology can be to the detriment of poetry (ex. socialist poets) but some of Hopkins’ poems manage to escape that trap of mindlessly “singing praises” to the institution of the church

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      1. Yes, there’s a cadence to Hopkins’ poetry that is certainly reminiscent of Thomas. I am an atheist but I think when poetry is spiritual rather than ecclesiastical it is more relatable and, therefore, evocative. For instance, I love both the secular and divine poetry of John Donne. Poetry like that speaks to the universal condition, the search for life’s meaning, and isn’t just narrowly focused on one dogma.


  3. OH beautiful, reminds me about your mermaid poster hanging in my bathroom…the sea curling, unfurling. I love thinking about you getting and inspiration, seeking your art materials, your mind afire, seizing the day in pursuit of art, expression, the immediacy of action I imagine …the kind I long for. You inspire. Happy for your return.

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    1. I wish it was really like that…seizing the day and immediacy of action sound especially nice! LOL When it happens, it’s great…but it happens all too seldom, and like lots of other people I waste a lot of time on facebook! :/ I don’t make art half as often as I would like to or should. It looks good on a blog, all collected together, seems like it fills my life. I am trying to learn the habit of doing it everyday, of whipping a sketchbook out at all the moments when you’d normally whip out a camera or phone, instead. There’s hope…we can learn this!

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      1. Only just speaking about you with lady from Jacksons. Your ears should have been favourably burning!! Love your Dylan T’s quote. Art must be a little like child rearing – I was guided by the thought “quality not quantity” when I felt I wasn’t getting it just right. Hugs, young one 🙃

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Is that why I started spitting cherry pits? (Thinking of ” Witches of Eastwick”) I miss Jacksons, and the beautiful ladies there, so much. Looking forward to getting back. Hugs back!


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