Dylan’s prize for winning the Sunday Referee’s poetry award was the chance to put together a volume of poems.  His first collection, 18 Poems was  published in December 1934. He was an ambitious and meticulous young man and he wanted the volume  to be of a very high standard.  He chose thirteen poems from his  notebook four which was completed between August 1933 and April 1934 and then he wrote five more in the months that followed. Dylan included all eighteen poems in his Collected Poems (1952). The poems are all still in print in The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas, The New Centenary Edition, edited by John Goodby (2014) and The Dylan Thomas Omnibus (2014), both published by Orion.

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  • When was it written: April 1934
    When and where it was first published: New Verse, April 1934,
    18 Poems (1934) and Dylan’s Collected Poems (1952)
  • Where you can find it now: Dylan Thomas: The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas, The New Centenary Edition, edited by John Goodby (2014) and The Dylan Thomas Omnibus (2014), both published by Orion.
  • Excerpt:
    I see the boys of summer in their ruin
    Lay the gold tithings barren,
    Setting no store by harvest, freeze the soils;
    There in their heat the winter floods
    Of frozen loves they fetch their girls,
    And drown the cargoes apples in their tides.
  • Further information: According to Dylan this was one of the two best books in his first collection and he chose to use it to open the book. This was notebook 4, poem ‘thirty-nine’.
  • When was it written: 11 November 1933, revised March 1934
    When and where it was first published: New Verse-June 1934,
    18 Poems (1934) and Dylan’s Collected Poems (1952)
  • Where you can find it now: The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas, The New Centenary Edition, edited by John Goodby (2014) and The Dylan Thomas Omnibus (2014), both published by Orion.
  • Excerpt:
    When once the twilight locks no longer
    Locked in the long worm of my finger
    Nor damned the sea that sped about my fist,
    The mouth of time sucked, like a sponge,
    The milky acid on each hinge,
    And swallowed dry the waters of the breast.
  • Further information: Further information: This was notebook 4, poem ‘twenty-nine’, though it was revised before publication in New Verse and 18 Poems.
  • When was it written: 6 September 1933
    When and where it was first published: 18 Poems (1934) and Dylan’s Collected Poems (1952)
  • Where you can find it now: The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas, The New Centenary Edition, edited by John Goodby (2014) and The Dylan Thomas Omnibus (2014), both published by Orion.
  • Excerpt:
    Before I knocked and flesh let enter,
    With liquid hands tapped on the womb,
    I who was shapeless as the water,
    That shaped the Jordan near my home
    Was brother to Mnetha’s daughter
    And sister to the fathering worm.
  • Further information: In a letter to Pamela Hansford Johnson, Dylan described this as ‘the Jesus poem’. This was notebook 4, poem ‘seven’ and was adapted. Some verses were not included before publication in 18 Poems.
  • When was it written: 12 October 1933
    When and where it was first published: Sunday Referee, 29 October 1933, 18 Poems (1934) and Dylan’s Collected Poems (1952)
  • Where you can find it now: Dylan Thomas: The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas, The New Centenary Edition, edited by John Goodby (2014) and The Dylan Thomas Omnibus (2014), both published by Orion.
  • Excerpt:
    The Force that through the green fuse drives the flower
    Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
    Is my destroyer.
    And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
    My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.
  • Further information: This poem is dedicated To E.P. (perhaps Evelyn ‘Titch’ Phillips, a Swansea friend). It was notebook 4, poem ‘Twenty Three’ but was revised before publication. This poem demonstrates both the positive and negative consequences of nature and time. The last line is ‘How heaven has ticked a heaven round the stars’. The word for time in Welsh is amser and Dylan split the word into am and ser, which gave him the Welsh words for ’round the stars’. This poem was the winner of the Sunday Referee’s best annual poem prize.
  • When was it written: 17 September 1933
    When and where it was first published: 18 Poems (1934) and Dylan’s Collected Poems (1952)
  • Where you can find it now: The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas, The New Centenary Edition, edited by John Goodby (2014) and The Dylan Thomas Omnibus (2014), both published by Orion.
  • Excerpt:
    My hero bares his nerves along my wrist
    That rules from wrist to shoulder,
    Unpacks the head that, like a sleepy ghost
    Leans on my mortal ruler,
    The proud spine spurning turn and twist.
  • Further information: This was notebook 4, poem ‘thirteen’ and revised before publication in 18 Poems. Some lines that were taken out of this poem were utilised again in the poem Grief Thief of Time collected in Dylan’s second volume, Twenty-five Poems.
  • When was it written: 18 March 1934
    When and where it was first published: Sunday Referee – 25 March 1933,
    18 Poems (1934) and Dylan’s Collected Poems (1952)
  • Where you can find it now: The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas, The New Centenary Edition, edited by John Goodby (2014) and The Dylan Thomas Omnibus (2014), both published by Orion.
  • Excerpt:
    Where once the waters of your face
    Spun to my screws, your dry ghost blows,
    The dead turns up its eye;
    Where once the mermen through your ice
    Pushed up their hair, the dry wind steers
    Through salt and root and roe.
  • Further information: This poem was, in a heavily disguised way, a love poem, probably to his first girlfriend Pamela Hansford Johnson. This was notebook 4, poem ‘thirty-eight’.
  • When was it written: 30 April 1934
    When and where it was first published: New Verse, August 1933,
    18 Poems (1934) and Dylan’s Collected Poems (1952)
  • Where you can find it now: The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas, The New Centenary Edition, edited by John Goodby (2014) and The Dylan Thomas Omnibus (2014), both published by Orion.
  • Excerpt:
    If I were tickled by the rub of love,
    A rooking girl who stole me for her side,
    Broke through her straws, breaking my bandaged string,
    If the red tickle as the cattle calve
    Still set to scratch a laughter from my lung,
    I would not fear the apple nor the flood
    Nor the bad blood of spring.
  • Further information: This was notebook 4, poem ‘forty one’ and was slightly revised before publication in New Verse.
  • When was it written: March 1934
    When and where it was first published: New Verse, April 1934,
    18 Poems (1934) and Dylan’s Collected Poems (1952)
  • Where you can find it now: The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas, The New Centenary Edition, edited by John Goodby (2014) and The Dylan Thomas Omnibus (2014), both published by Orion.
  • Excerpt:
    Our eunuch dreams, all seedless in the light,
    Of light and love, the tempers of the heart.
    Whack their boys’ limbs,
    And, winding-footed in their shawl and sheet,
    Groom the dark brides, the widow of the night
    Fold in their arms.
  • Further information: This was notebook 4, poem ‘thirty seven’ and was slightly revised before publication in New Verse. Edith Sitwell, in a review for Aspects of Modern Poetry had called Our Eunuch Dreams, ‘an appalling affair’. A few years later, she changed her opinion of Dylan’s poetry and became one of his biggest supporters.
  • When was it written: c.November 1932
    When and where it was first published: The Listener, 24 October 1934,
    18 Poems (1934) and Dylan’s Collected Poems (1952)
  • Where you can find it now: The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas, The New Centenary Edition, edited by John Goodby (2014) and The Dylan Thomas Omnibus (2014), both published by Orion.
  • Excerpt:
    Especially when the October wind
    With frosty fingers punishes my hair,
    Caught by the crabbing sun I walk on fire
    And cast a shadow crab upon the land,
    By the sea’s side, hearing the noise of the birds,
    Hearing the raven cough in winter sticks,
    My busy heart who shudders as she talks
    Sheds the syllabic blood and drains her words.
  • Further information: A typescript of the poem, ‘Especially when the November wind’ can be found at the British Library, which is thought to have been written in the missing 1932 notebook, and it is likely that this was the first version of this poem. When revised for publication in The Listener, it had the title, Poem in October so it can be considered as one of Dylan’s birthday poems.
  • When was it written: Autumn 1934
    When and where it was first published: 18 Poems (1934) and Dylan’s Collected Poems (1952)
  • Where you can find it now: The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas, The New Centenary Edition, edited by John Goodby (2014) and The Dylan Thomas Omnibus (2014), both published by Orion.
  • Excerpt:
    When, like a running grave, time tracks you down,
    Your calm and cuddled is a scythe of hairs,
    Love in her gear is slowly through the house,
    Up naked stairs, a turtle in a hearse,
    Hauled to the dome.
  • Further information: This poem, and ‘I see the boys in summer’, were considered by Dylan as the best two poems in the collection. This poem was written after the notebooks were completed, and just before 18 Poems was published, so there is no manuscript it. Parts of the writing produced when creating this poem are likely to have also been included in ‘I, in my intricate image’ which was collected in Dylan’s second volume Twenty-five Poems.
  • When was it written: 17 October 1933
    When and where it was first published: The Criterion October 1934,
    18 Poems (1934) and Dylan’s Collected Poems (1952)
  • Where you can find it now: Dylan Thomas: The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas, The New Centenary Edition, edited by John Goodby (2014) and The Dylan Thomas Omnibus (2014), both published by Orion.
  • Excerpt:
    From love’s first fever to her plague, from the soft second
    And to the hollow minute of the womb,
    From the unfolding to the scissored caul,
    The time for breast and the green apron age
    When no out stirred about the hanging famine,
    All world was one, one windy nothing,
    My world was christened in a stream of milk.
    And earth and sky were as one airy hill,
    The sun and moon shed one white light.
  • Further information: This poem shows the development of a baby to child. This was started as notebook 4, poem ‘twenty four’ but was finished as notebook 4, poem ‘twenty six’. It was then published in The Criterion before being slightly adapted for publication in 18 Poems.
  • When was it written: 18 September 1933 and rewritten in April 1934
    When and where it was first published: 18 Poems (1934) and Dylan’s Collected Poems (1952)
  • Where you can find it now: The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas, The New Centenary Edition, edited by John Goodby (2014) and The Dylan Thomas Omnibus (2014), both published by Orion.
  • Excerpt:
    In the beginning was the three pointed star,
    One smile of light across the empty face;
    One bough of bone across the rooting air,
    The substance forked that narrowed the first sun;
    And, burning ciphers on the round of space,
    Heaven and hell mixed as they spun.
  • Further information: In this poem, it seems to link the idea of the creation of the world and the conception of the embryo. It was started as notebook 4, poem ‘fifteen’ and rewritten as notebook 4, poem ‘forty’.
  • When was it written: November 20 1933
    When and where it was first published: The Listener on 14 March 1934,
    18 Poems (1934) and Dylan’s Collected Poems (1952)
  • Where you can find it now: Dylan Thomas: The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas, The New Centenary Edition, edited by John Goodby (2014) and The Dylan Thomas Omnibus (2014), both published by Orion.
  • Excerpt:
    Light breaks where no sun shines;
    Where no sea runs, the waters of the heart
    Push in their tides;
    And, broken ghosts with glow-worms in their heads,
    The thing of light
    File through the flesh where no flesh decks the bones.
  • Further information: This poem was published in The Listener on March 14th 1933 and is about conception. Complaint letters began to arrive almost immediately. However, the minor scandal did not harm Dylan, quite the opposite in fact. This is notebook 4, poem ‘thirty’.
  • When was it written: 5 October 1933 and re-written in April 1934.
    When and where it was first published: 18 Poems (1934) and Dylan’s Collected Poems (1952)
  • Where you can find it now: The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas, The New Centenary Edition, edited by John Goodby (2014) and The Dylan Thomas Omnibus (2014), both published by Orion.
  • Excerpt:
    I fellowed sleep who kissed me in the brain,
    Let fall the tear of time; the sleeper’s eye,
    Shifting to light, turned on me like a moon.
    So, ‘planing-heeled,
    I flew along my man
    And dropped on dreaming and the upward sky.
  • Further information: This poem is from Notebook 4, poem ‘twenty-two’, though it was re-written in April 1934 adding in the opening of notebook 4, poem ‘thirty-one’.
  • When was it written: c.July 1934
    When and where it was first published: New Verse – December 1934 (as ‘Half of the fellow father as he doubles’), 18 Poems (1934) and Dylan’s Collected Poems (1952)
  • Where you can find it now: The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas, The New Centenary Edition, edited by John Goodby (2014) and The Dylan Thomas Omnibus (2014), both published by Orion.
  • Excerpt:
    Half of the fellow father as he doubles
    His sea-sucked Adam in the hollow hulk,
    Half of the fellow mother as she dabbles
    Tomorrow’s diver in her horny milk,
    Bisected shadows on the thunder’s bone
    Bolts for the salt unborn.
  • Further information: This may have originally been two separate poems.