Dylan Thomas was a brilliant Welsh poet and writer whom Carolyn and I both admire, who has been acknowledged as one of the most important poets of the 20th century. His iconic poems— which include such masterpieces as “Do not go gentle into that good night” and “And death shall have no dominion,” are known for their acute use of lyricism, imagery, and emotion. Although influenced by the Romantic tradition, Thomas’ refusal to align with any literary group or movement has made his work difficult to categorize and ever more important.
Self-described as a “roistering, drunken and doomed poet,” Dylan Thomas lived a short life; he died at the age of 39, but packed a lot of creative output into those years. Thomas dropped out of school at sixteen, in 1930, to become a junior reporter for the South Wales Daily Post, but left this job two years later so that he could concentrate full-time on his poetry. Thomas wrote 200 poems between 1930 and 1934 when he was in his late teens and had nine volumes of poetry and ten volumes of prose published. Even though Thomas was recognized as a great poet during his lifetime, he had difficulty earning a living as a writer and augmented his income with reading tours and radio broadcasts.
Dylan Thomas became a pop star among poets, known for his dramatic poetry readings, and he had as many fans of his live performances as readers of his published poems. Many people have been inspired by his powerful poetry. Poet Sylvia Plath has said that Thomas was one of her most important influences, and singer-songwriter Bob Zimmerman renamed himself “Bob Dylan,” because he was so inspired and influenced by Dylan Thomas. Lovers of Thomas’ extraordinary work celebrate every year on May 14th, which is International Dylan Thomas Day.
Carolyn with statue of Dylan Thomas at the Dylan Thomas Theater, Swansea, Wales
Our beloved friend Peter Thabit Jones, who is a scholar and poet, wrote a wonderful book, Dylan Thomas: Walking Tour of Greenwich Village. Jones’s book serves as a self-guided tour of ten places in Greenwich Village, New York, associated with Thomas, and it contains a foreword by Hannah Ellis, the granddaughter of Dylan Thomas.
Some quotes that Dylan Thomas is remembered for include:
When one burns one’s bridges, what a very nice fire it makes.
Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
A good poem is a contribution to reality. The world is never the same once a good poem has been added to it. A good poem helps to change the shape of the universe, helps to extend everyone’s knowledge of himself and the world around him.