Monday, September 29, 2014

Dunstan Thompson

Dunstan Thompson (1918—1975) is an American poet who settled in England after WWII. At Harvard he gained much towards his goal of being a writer, but not through academic pursuits. He was befriended by Conrad Aiken, who introduced him to T.S. Eliot. Another early mentor was Oscar Williams. Early in his career Thompson published Poems (1943, Simon & Schuster) followed by Lament for the Sleepwalker (1947, Dodd Mead).

In New York before the war, and later in London, Thompson lived a life of promiscuous homosexuality. After converting to Christian faith he completely transformed his lifestyle. It has been suggested that his subsequent inability to attract the attention of publishers may be in part due to his inclusion of religious poems in his manuscripts, and because his new work lacked the incoherence some "avant-garde" publishers were looking for.

Despite this discrepancy between the publishing success of his earlier and later work, Dunstan Thompson wished to be remembered for the poetry he wrote after 1950—even giving instructions for his earlier books to not be reprinted. Posthumously, his final three poetry collections were published as Dunstan Thompson, Poems, 1950—1974. The way he saw his early verse is expressed well in the following poem.

Early Poems

These are the ruins of a desperate day.
Among cold jagged stones
The serpents used to sway;
But now their empty skins, dull diamond tones,
Litter the lifeless towers.
The secret grief-enveloped complex rooms
A moment gleam with truth;
For, while the spinning spider winds
His way among the poisoned blooms
That loiter through the arches,
The dank deceitful foliage still reminds
The curious traveller: ‘Here is sadness
And the waste of youth.’


However alone
There is always One
Who cares.
Hence, prayers.
At the end time
Will seem
As dreamily done
As this rhyme.
Not alone
But forever with Him.
Happy, I suppose
It is not too much to say.
So for all those
Also alone
Let us pray.
By Thy agony
Remember me,
Longing to belong
To You.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.