Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Thomas's Lasting Legacy; the World Lost Popular Poet and Wordsmith Dylan Thomas 60 Years Ago. Marion McMullen Looks at How His Memory and Legacy Are Now Being Celebrated

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Thomas's Lasting Legacy; the World Lost Popular Poet and Wordsmith Dylan Thomas 60 Years Ago. Marion McMullen Looks at How His Memory and Legacy Are Now Being Celebrated

Article excerpt

Byline: Marion McMullen

'DO NOT go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light," wrote Welsh poet and writer Dylan Thomas. The hard-drinker was only 39 when he passed away 60 years ago on November 9 in a smog-ridden New York City.

He and his wife Caitlin had made their home in the Welsh fishing village of Laugharne. He was later buried in the village churchyard.

One of the most famous poets in the world by the early 1950s, his popular and electrifying tours also made him a much loved celebrity in America and he was on his way to Hollywood to write an opera with Stravinsky before his death.

Born Dylan Marlais Thomas in Swansea in 1914, he found fame for his play Under Milk Wood as well as poems like Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.

Under Milk Wood began as a radio play in 1954 and followed the fortunes of the colourful characters of a small, Welsh fishing village called Llareggub over the course of one day.

Welsh actor Richard Burton returned to the story again and again and is the narrator of three radio versions. He also featured in a 1972 film version with a star cast that included Elizabeth Taylor, Peter O'Toole, Ruth Madoc and Sian Phillips.

Thomas himself featured in the play's first reading in New York before his death in 1953 and performed several parts including First Voice, the Reverend Eli Jenkins and Fifth Drowned. There have also been opera and dance versions of Under Milk Wood.

"A good poem is a contribution to reality. The world is never the same once a good poem has been added to it," said Thomas.

"A good poem helps to change the shape of the universe, helps to extend everyone's knowledge of himself and the world around him."

He and Caitlin had a stormy relationship and his life had started to spiral out of control by the time he passed away. "Somebody's boring me. I think it's me," he said.

He also declared: "Whatever talents I possess may suddenly diminish or suddenly increase. I can with ease become an ordinary fool. I may be one now. But it doesn't do to upset one's own vanity."

The legacy of the Welsh writer remains strong and the Prince of Wales recently recorded one of his favourite Thomas poems to mark National Poetry Day.

Prince Charles chose Fern Hill and described the poem as a "poignant and moving evocation of a rural West Wales childhood".

He said: "I cannot help feeling this is one of the great legacies of Thomas's poetry - that it inspires people to appreciate the incomparable landscape of Wales."

William Sieghart, the founder of National Poetry Day, said: "There's no mistaking the Prince of Wales' love of this moving poem."

A festival to mark 100 years since the birth of Thomas will take place in Swansea next year and Prince Charles is royal patron of the event. …

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