20th century Welsh poet
Dylan Marlais Thomas was born October 27, 1914 in the Welsh seaport of Swansea, Wales. Thomas attended the Swansea Grammar School, where he received all of his formal education. As a student he made contributions to the school magazine and was keenly interested in local folklore. Having declared at the age of eight that he was a poet, he began writing early and published his first book of poetry, 18 Poems (1934), when he was not yet twenty years old. After leaving school, Thomas supported himself as an actor, reporter, reviewer, scriptwriter, and with various odd jobs. When he was twenty-two years old, he married Caitlin Macnamara, with whom he had two sons, Llewelyn and Colm, and a daughter, Aeronwy. After their marriage, Dylan and Caitlin moved to the fishing village of Laugharne, Carmarthenshire.
By 1938 Thomas’s reputation was growing the United Kingdom, yet he was still basically unknown in the United States until a poem of his appeared in the 1938 anthology New Directions in Poetry and Prose, and two of his earlier poetry volumes were published by James Laughlin under the title The World I Breathe (1939).
During World War II, Thomas wrote radio scripts for the Ministry of Information and documentaries for the British government. After the war he became a commentator on poetry for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). Thomas continued writing poems, stories, essays, and plays, and in 1950 made the first of four reading tours through the United States, during which he gave more than one hundred poetry readings. In these appearances he half recited, half chanted the lines in what became known as his famous “Welsh singing” voice and inspired generations of modern poets to begin reading their poems in public.
Following the extraordinary success of his just-published Collected Poems, Thomas began his final tour of the United States on October 16, 1953. He collapsed at the Chelsea Hotel and fell into a coma on November 5. He died four days later in St. Vincent’s Hospital at the age of thirty-nine. Thomas was buried in the graveyard of St. Martin’s Church, Laugharne, Wales.
“Dylan Thomas threw two purses to the world. One was filled with poems, the other with the golden glitter of his wit and fantasy. That second purse contains his finished prose and his unfinished film scripts. Even a little half-sovereign is rare enough, and here is one that sparkles and shimmers with the best.”
“His prose, his images, his stories all pulsate with life, with a beat and a variety that captivate, invigorate, and clarify.”
“I think him to be the most profound and greatly accomplished Welshman writing poems in English.”
— Dylan Thomas on Vernon Watkins