Last week in celebration of National Poetry Day’s theme of messages I delved into Dylan’s letters but I ended my blog with the need to write so much more. I wanted to look at his poetry and prose and find the hidden messages he had left us – clues from beyond the grave you could say!
Throughout his life my grandfather loved working things out – he enjoyed decoding cryptic cross words with his father or lying in the bath and sucking boiled sweets while reading an Agatha Christie novel…helping Poirot solve the crime. I know Mum would often catch him (when he was supposed to be working!) huddled over his desk in his writing shed, nose buried in a murder mystery.
But I think this love of cracking codes fed into his writing too. I often wonder if part of his reason for creating the complex rhyming pattern in Author’s Prologue was to not only challenge himself, but also his readers! As moviemakers so often do, I suspect he has added a few ‘Easter eggs’ – the disguised inside jokes that only a few will see – to his work. In his story, ‘The Fight,’ he wrote, “A poem I had printed in the Wales Day by Day column of the Western Mail was pasted on the mirror to make me blush.” This was a little hint, a slight nod towards a teenage misdemeanor that only came to light about forty years or so later. Dylan had plagiarized a poem called ‘His Requiem’ in his early teens, claiming it as his own. Why would Dylan do that when around that time he was furiously filling notebooks with original, and quite remarkable poetry? Who knows for sure? I like to think he was being a touch mischievous – the early glimmers of a cheeky sense of humour.
Dylan must have had so much fun trying to sneak in the odd concealed word or phrase that might raise an eyebrow or two. The “jollyrodgered sea” and the “organplaying wood” some how got past the eagle-eyed editor looking through Dylan’s dog-eared copy of Under Milk Wood. However, “Llareggub” was not so lucky. When the play-for-voices was first published, the spelling used was “Llaregyb”. Having said that, he had been successful before. He had included Llareggub in both The Burning Baby and The Orchards, magnificently hoodwinking the publishers.
I read somewhere that my grandfather once remarked that T.S.Eliot was nearly toilets. Hmmm, a touch disrespectful to one of the greatest talents of the 20th century, I can only hope that if my grandfather did mention it to his poet friend, he would have appreciated Dylan’s ‘creative’ use of language. Terry Pratchett certainly did, as he used the same device in Discworld – he created Llamedos.
So, I’ve taken on a bit of detective work myself and I think I may have discovered a few other examples of my grandfather’s word play with some of the characters from Under Milk Wood. You may agree, you may not, but, perhaps, some food for thought?
Mrs Ogmore Pritchard – The first letters of her name spell out MOP. Surely that’s not a coincidence? Her character is ‘clean’ in every way. She even asks the sun to “mind it wipes its feet” before it enters her house.
Rosie Probert – The dead girlfriend of the blind Captain Cat. Within her name you can find the letters RIP.
Evans the death – The undertaker that dreams of his childhood. Satan can be found within his name. A bit far fetched? Well, in a section of the play, Jack Black prepares to meet Satan in the woods. And, one of the parts my grandfather added after a trip to America was about the undertaker. In the original version he was Thomas the Death. Why the change to Evans?
As I say, I could be barking up the completely wrong tree, though I hope not. Now, what I would really love is for you to go and investigate. Explore my grandfather’s writing (good excuse to go back and rediscover it!) and look for those hidden messages. If you do find any, please, please share them. You can put your thoughts under this blog or on social media. Go on, have fun. I can’t wait…
By the way, a little teaser for you. Check out our Love the Words image above, designed by Lee Jones. Each letter is connected to Dylan’s work and relates to particular poems, can you work them out?
Hannah Ellis – 10th October 2016.
Hannah is a teacher, writer and consultant. You can learn more about her by visiting the website – http://www.hannahellisconsultancy.com