INTERNATIONAL DYLAN THOMAS DAY | BOOKS FEATURE
Following the immense response in 2014 to the activities and events to celebrate Dylan Thomas’ centenary, the request was met to set a public day to revel in all things Dylan. Part of a three-year project funded by the Welsh Government in the hope of raising awareness of Thomas’ work, not only in Wales but on an international scale, International Dylan Thomas Day will take place on Sun 14 May. Festivities will celebrate the life and works of Dylan Thomas and mark the anniversary of the first performance of Under Milk Wood in New York in 1953. Despite the fact that the festival was only established in 2015, the idea has really taken hold: last year there were over 50 events celebrated across the globe from America to Australia, and this year looks set to be the same, with about 60 events scheduled to take place.
So, who was Dylan Thomas?
Born in Swansea on 27th October 1914 to a seamstress and a teacher, Dylan Thomas was named after a character in The Mabinogion, so perhaps he was always destined to have literary leanings. Although both of his parents were fluent Welsh speakers, they brought up Dylan and his sister Nancy as English speakers, as was expected at the time. Even though Dylan Thomas’ work is not written in Welsh (though it has been widely translated) he is still regarded as having a strong Welsh heritage as his work references Wales and the Welsh identity in great detail. From 1930, he wrote his early poems in a series of notebooks which went on to become the foundations of several of his collections. The majority of his work originated from this period in his late teens, which emphasises the visionary wordsmith he was. He left school to become a reporter for the South Wales Daily Post, but left shortly after to pursue a career in poetry. He also joined the drama society, Little Theatre, in the Mumbles. Although he is predominantly remembered for his poetry, Dylan Thomas’ work also included writing short stories, films and radio scripts as well as narrating radio shows. Some of his most famous works include Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, A Child’s Christmas in Wales and Under Milk Wood. In 1936, he met Caitlin Macnamara who was in another relationship but, after a passionate romance, they eventually married in 1937. They settled in Laugharne, a Welsh fishing village and had three children together. Thomas’ family lived in relative poverty and he relied on patrons, particularly the generosity of Margaret Taylor, to alleviate his constant debts. His relationship with Macnamara was quite tempestuous and Thomas had affairs which caused a great strain on his marriage. Along with his pecuniary issues, he also drank heavily which led to his premature death, aged only 39. Thomas had travelled to New York to do some readings when he collapsed at the Chelsea Hotel and then died only days later on 9th November 1953. Despite his untimely death, his legacy has lived on and he is still celebrated as one of Wales’ best poets.
There are several events taking place throughout the week, ranging from poetry readings, guided walks, film screenings and performances of Dylan’s work to activity days making puppets! There are competitions and family events as well as group events and a pub crawl. However you want to celebrate, there will be something for you to get involved with. For a full listing of everything in Wales and around the world visit here.
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words LUCY MENON