Castelli October Feature – Celebrating the life and work of Dylan Thomas
Dylan Marlais Thomas
99th Anniversary of his birth
Dylan Marlais Thomas was born on October 27, 1914 in one of the more affluent areas of Swansea, Wales. Although writing exclusively in English, Thomas has been acknowledged as one of the most important Welsh poets of the 20th century. His poetry is notable for its musical rhythm and use of ingenius words and imagery. He himself, once confided that the poems which had most influenced him were Mother Goose rhymes which his parents taught him when he was a child.
During his lifetime he wrote many great poems, including ‘Fern Hill’, ‘The hunchback in the park’ and ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’, that was dedicated to his father. In addition to poetry, he wrote short stories and scripts for film and radio, which he often performed himself, including the critically acclaimed “Under Milk Wood” and the collection of stories, “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog”.
Leaving school at 16, he began keeping poetry notebooks and amassed 200 poems in four such journals between 1930 and 1934. He started working life as a journalist for the South West Daily Post, and moved to London in 1934. It was whilst living in London that Thomas met Caitlin Macnamara, a dancer, whom he would marry in 1937 a relationship that would be defined by alcoholism.Moving back to Laugharne in Wales the first of three children, Llewelyn Edouard was born in 1939.
Thomas found earning a living as a writer difficult, and began to support his income with reading tours and broadcasts, writingscripts for the BBC. His radio recordings for the BBC during the latter half of the 1940s brought him a level of celebrity.
With the outset of the Second World War and to avoid conscription he consistently referred back to childhood problems of asthma and bronchitus, coughing would sometimes confine him to bed and he had history of bringing up blood and mucus.
Following the bombing of Swansea by the German Luftwaffe in February 1941, Thomas and Caitlin moved to London, leaving their son with his grandmother, hoping to find employment in the film industry, something he achieved by scripting at least five films during 1942.
With the threat of German flying bombs on London during 1944 Thomas moved the family back to Wales which inspired him to resume writing poetry in notebooks. Thomas remained a popular guest on radio talk shows for the BBC, making over 200 broadcasts, but his heavy drinking was always considered a problem with the management team.
During the 1950’s Thomas was invited to New York to tour arts centres and campuses within the States, these proved successful and were repeated many times. However, during his forth trip in 1953, he would drink heavily, resulting in serious health issues, suffering with gout and lung problems. Thomas became gravely ill and fell into a coma from which he did not recover. Thomas died on 9th November 1953 and his body was returned to Wales where he is buried at the village churchyard in Laugharne.