Dylan Thomas (b.2003), Coolmore Stud, New South Wales
From a paddock lately nuzzled
by Groom Dancer, Pensive Mood
and Pursuit of Love
the Welsh poet refinds his feet
belly filled with the green grass
freshly won, stable-mates consigned
to an adjacent pasture – Rock of Gibraltar
and the self-harmer Tale of a Cat
chomping on stones,
Our Aristotle gone uncharacteristically
quiet, closer by the rowdy pavilion
the silent, rock-strewn field.
Gregory O'Brien is a full-time writer and artist, based in Wellington. Current projects include a monograph on the Australian/New Zealand painter Euan Macleod (forthcoming, Piper Press, Sydney, October 2010) and a book about the illustrator/artist Graham Percy, which will appear from Auckland University Press in 2011. As a visual artist, he is represented by Bowen Galleries, Wellington, and Jane Sanders Gallery, Auckland.
O'Brien comments: 'Late in 2008 the Sydney-based painter Noel McKenna embarked upon an exhibition project, centred on the Hunter Valley region, north of Sydney. As well as being famous for its mineral reserves and wine-making, the area has a formidable reputation for racehorse breeding. Noel commissioned me to write a poem relating to the horse-breeding in the area and "Dylan Thomas (b.2003), Coolmore Stud, New South Wales" was the result.
As part of the assignment, Noel had been helicoptered up from Sydney and taken around notable sites in the Hunter Valley region. He spent time at the renowned Coolmore Stud, where one of the most famous and expensive stallions – Dylan Thomas – was at the time "servicing" a mare. Noel later made an etching of this: Dylan Thomas (2009), which was printed at Michael Kempson's Cicada Press, Sydney. That image was the point from which I began the poem – although Noel also provided me with the 2008 prospectus from Coolmore Stud. All the names in the poem – from Groom Dancer down to Our Aristotle – come from Coolmore Stud horses, past as well as present. I imagined these stallions shuffling around outside the pavilion, on the day of Noel's visit, while Dylan Thomas was busily engaged inside.
In my work-sheets for the poem, I made a collage of phrases the Coolmore copywriter had used regarding D.T., the poet, as well as concerning the horse of the same name. Dylan Thomas's literary status was interwoven with the horse's history:
WITH US FOR JUST 39 OF THE EARLY YEARS OF THE LAST CENTURY, THE INFLUENCE OF THE WELSH POET AND WRITER DYLAN THOMAS CAN STILL BE FELT TODAY
a top-class 2-y-o [two year old] and a 6-time Group 1 winning world champion with an exceptional turn of foot and rated 132 by Timeform
HIS LANGUAGE AND CONSIDERABLE UNDERSTATED BEAUTY
he's bred on a similar Danehill/Sharpen Up cross to dual Group 1 winning 2-y-o & exceptional sire Danehill Dancer . . .
TO HIM, UNDER MILK WOOD WAS A REASSERTION OF THE EVIDENCE OF BEAUTY IN THE WORLD
and he's a half-brother to the brilliant European champion 2-y-0 filly Queen's Logic
IT IS, PERHAPS HIS SURVIVING MASTERPIECE.
I included the poem "Dylan Thomas (b.2003) . . ." in a chapbook, small edible garden (Fernbank Studios/Wellington Plains, 2009). As for how the poem will figure in Noel McKenna's art: he is currently working on a painting using the entire text, and – even more intriguingly – he is having the poem embroidered onto a horse-blanket which, all going to plan, will be worn by the stallion Dylan Thomas and paraded around the yard as part of Noel's exhibition opening in the Hunter Valley at the end of 2010.'
The Poem 'Dylan Thomas (b.2003) . . .' is copyright of the author and Noel McKenna, Sydney.