May 14, 2021 3 min read

Dylan Marlais Thomas

Born on 27th October 1914, in Swansea, South Wales, Dylan was a Welsh poet and writer whose works include the poems

  • Do not go gentle into that good night
  • And death shall have no dominion
  • Under Milk Wood 

Dylan became exceptionally popular during his lifetime and this continued after his premature death at the age of 39 in New York City.

International Dylan Thomas Day

Each 14th May, Dylan Thomas, his life and his literally works are celebrated and is known as International Dylan Thomas Day (Dylan Day for short). The 14th May is the anniversary of the date when Under Milk Wood was first read on stage at 92Y The Poetry Center, New York in 1953.

Early Career

Thomas dropped out of school at sixteen to become a junior reporter for the South Wales Daily Post. By December of 1932, he left his job at the Post and decided to concentrate on his poetry full-time. It was during this time, in his late teens, that Thomas wrote more than half of his collected poems.

 

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 Dylan Thomas (Cont'd)

In 1934, when Thomas was twenty, he moved to London, won the Poet's Corner book prize, and published his first book, 18 Poems (The Fortune press), to great acclaim. The book drew from a collection of poetry notebooks that Thomas had written years earlier, as would many of his most popular books. 

Two years after the publication of 18 Poems, Thomas met the dancer Caitlin Macnamara at a pub in London. At the time, she was the mistress of painter Augustus John. Macnamara and Thomas engaged in an affair and married in 1937. 

About Thomas's work, Michael Schmidt writes: "There is a kind of authority to the word magic of the early poems; in the famous and popular later poems, the magic is all show. If they have a secret it is the one we all share, partly erotic, partly elegiac. The later poems arise out of personality."

London Era

In 1940, Thomas and his wife moved to London. He had served as an anti-aircraft gunner but was rejected for more active combat due to illness. To avoid the air raids, the couple left London in 1944. They eventually settled at Laugharne, Carmarthenshire, in the Boat House where Thomas would write many of his later poems.

Thomas recorded radio shows and worked as a scriptwriter for the BBC. Between 1945 and 1949, he wrote, narrated, or assisted with over a hundred radio broadcasts. In one show, "Quite Early One Morning," he experimented with the characters and ideas that would later appear in his poetic radio play Under Milk Wood (1953).

New York Era

In January 1950, at the age of thirty-five, Thomas visited America for the first time. His reading tours of the United States, which did much to popularize the poetry reading as a new medium for the art, are famous and notorious. Thomas was the archetypal Romantic poet of the popular American imagination—he was theatrical, engaged in roaring disputes in public, and read his work aloud with tremendous depth of feeling.

Thomas toured America four times, with his last public engagement taking place at the City College of New York. A few days later, he collapsed in the Chelsea Hotel after a long drinking bout. On November 9, 1953, he died at St. Vincent's Hospital in New York City at the age of thirty-nine. He had become a legendary figure, both for his work and the boisterousness of his life. He was buried in Laugharne, and almost thirty years later, a plaque to Dylan was unveiled in the Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey.

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Last update 14th May 2021



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