October 27th – Dylan Thomas

“The world is never the same once a good poem is added to it.”

Dylan Thomas

Dylan Marlais Thomas was born on October 27th, 1914, in Swansea, South Wales. His father was an English Literature professor at a local school, and Thomas began writing poetry as a teenager. 

His first book, 18 Poems, was published in 1934, with a print run of 500 copies (250 bound and 250 unbound). Although he wrote the poems as a teenager, the volume was critically acclaimed. His following collection, Twenty-Five Poems, published in 1936, was celebrated as well. 

In 1936 he met Caitlin Macnamara, who was in a relationship with the artist Augustus John at the time. Thomas and Caitlin married in July 1937. 

They had three children, and Thomas had a number of affairs. 

His next two books, The Map of Love (1939), a collection of short stories and poems, and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog (1940), stories and essays, sold poorly. During World War II, he suffered from ill health that prevented him from serving. He struggled to support his family, relying on acquaintances and heavy drinking. During this time, he also wrote scripts for the BBC, which helped the war effort and financially kept him afloat. 

After the war, he went into radio broadcasting for the BBC. 

In the early 1950s, Thomas toured the US multiple times, drawing crowds and becoming known for getting drunk and making scenes. In 1952 two collections were published: In Country Sleep, And Other Poems, which includes his most famous poem, “Do not go gentle into that good night,” and the last collection published during his lifetime, Collected Poems, 1934–1952

On tour in America, Thomas collapsed at the Chelsea Hotel. He died on November 9th, 1953, at St. Vincent’s Hospital at the age of thirty-nine. Although it is commonly believed that he died after proclaiming he drank “18 straight whiskies, I think that’s a record,” a later biography, Dylan Remembered 1935-1953, volume 2, published in 2004, concluded it was most likely untreated pneumonia combined with morphine. 

Lesson from Thomas

Dylan Thomas was considered over-the-top in both his prose and his life, exuberant and loud, presenting striking imagery that left readers full of emotion. Like he said – “Do not go gentle into that good night.”

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