Dylan Thomas

Dylan Thomas (dĬl´ən), 1914–53, Welsh poet, b. Swansea. An extraordinarily individualistic writer, Thomas is ranked among the great 20th-century poets. He grew up in Swansea, the son of a teacher, but left school at 17 to become a journalist and moved to London two years later. His Eighteen Poems, published in 1934, created controversy but won him immediate fame, which grew with the publication of Twenty-five Poems (1936), The Map of Love (1939; containing poetry and surrealistic prose), The World I Breathe (1939; also containing some prose), Deaths and Entrances (1946), and In Country Sleep and Other Poems (1952).

The prose Thomas published is fragmented into stories and sketches, many autobiographical or pseudo-autobiographical, all touched with fantasy; they are collected in Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog (1940), Adventures in the Skin Trade (1955), and Quite Early One Morning (1955). He had a remarkable speaking voice, flexible and resonant, and his radio readings over the BBC were popular. In addition he wrote for the radio A Child's Christmas in Wales (published 1954) and his striking dramatic work, Under Milk Wood (published 1954), which records life and love and introspection in a small Welsh town.

Thomas's themes are traditional—love, death, mutability—and over the years he seemed to pass from religious doubt to joyous faith in God. His complex imagery is based on many sources, including Welsh legend, Christian symbolism, witchcraft, astronomy, and Freudian psychology; the private myth he created makes his early poetry hard to understand. Yet his sure mastery of sound (perhaps related to his fine voice), his warm humor, and his robust love of life attract the reader instantaneously.

Thomas greatly enjoyed his success but lived recklessly and drank heavily. His third highly popular tour of the United States ended in his death, which was brought on by alcoholism. The autobiography of Thomas's wife, Caitlin Thomas, Leftover Life to Kill (1957), and the account of the Thomases' tours by J. M. Brinnin, Dylan Thomas in America (1955), vividly describe his last years.

See his Collected Poems (1953); his letters, ed. by C. FitzGibbon (1967); his notebooks, ed. by R. Maud (1967); biographies by C. FitzGibbon (1965), J. Ackerman (1965), and A. Lycett (2004); studies by W. Y. Tindall (1962), W. T. Moynihan (1966), and R. Kidder (1973).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Dylan Thomas: Selected full-text books and articles

Dylan Thomas
Derek Stanford.
Citadel Press, 1954
Dylan Thomas: The Legend and the Poet: A Collection of Biographical and Critical Essays
E. W. Tedlock.
Heinemann, 1960
The World of Dylan Thomas
Clark Emery.
University of Miami Press, 1962
Poetry of Dylan Thomas: Under the Spelling Wall
John Goodby.
Liverpool University Press, 2013
The Romantic Survival: A Study in Poetic Evolution
John Bayley.
Constable, 1957
Librarian’s tip: Chap. X "Dylan Thomas"
In Defense of Ignorance
Karl Shapiro.
Random House, 1960
Librarian’s tip: "Dylan Thomas" begins on p. 171
Selected Writings
Dylan Thomas.
New Directions, 1946
A Prospect of the Sea: And Other Stories and Prose Writings
Dylan Thomas; Daniel Jones.
Dent, 1955
The Map of Love: Verse and Prose
Dylan Thomas.
J. M. Dent and Sons, 1939
Deaths and Entrances
Dylan Thomas.
J. M. Dent & Sons, 1946
Modern Verse in English, 1900-1950
David Cecil; Allen Tate.
Macmillan, 1958
Librarian’s tip: Poems by Dylan Thomas begin on p. 595
Dylan Thomas's "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night": Through "Lapis Lazuli" to 'King Lear.' (William Shakespeare, William Butler Yeats)
Cyr, Marc D.
Papers on Language & Literature, Vol. 34, No. 2, Spring 1998
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
The Ambiguous Reversal of Dylan Thomas's "In Country Sleep."
Balakier, James J.
Papers on Language & Literature, Vol. 32, No. 1, Winter 1996
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Green and Dying in Chains: Dylan Thomas's "Fern Hill" and Kenneth Grahame's 'The Golden Age.'
Craik, Roger.
Twentieth Century Literature, Vol. 44, No. 3, Fall 1998
The Religious Sonnets of Dylan Thomas: A Study in Imagery and Meaning
H. H. Kleinman.
Octagon Books, 1979
Lectures on Some Modern Poets
Margaret Foster Leclair; Beekman W. Cottrell; Erwin R. Steinberg; A. Fred Sochatoff; Dorothy W. Goodfellow.
Carnegie Institute of Technology, 1955
Librarian’s tip: "Dylan Thomas: 'The Boy of Summer'" begins on p. 77
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