Who is Dylan Thomas?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Dylan Thomas is one of the best-beloved Welsh poets and playwrights whose 20th century works continue to provide great enjoyment to new readers. He was born in Swansea, Wales, in 1914 to parents Florence and David Thomas. One thing that many remember about Dylan Thomas is his short life, which was nevertheless artistically prolific. He died in 1953, just a month after turning 39.

Dylan Thomas was born in Wales in 1914.
Dylan Thomas was born in Wales in 1914.

Though both of Thomas’ parents spoke their native Welsh, Dylan Thomas was encouraged to speak English and all his major writings are composed in the English tongue. He published his first poem in his school magazine in 1925, and had a poem published in his local newspaper in 1927.

Thus at a very young age, Thomas gift of poetry was strong and noted. Larger recognition would come in the 1930s when the New English Weekly published the poem “And Death Shall Have No Dominion.” His first volume of poetry was published by 1934.

In 1936 Dylan Thomas married Caitlin Macnamara, and by all accounts their marriage was difficult. The two had three children. Moreover, though Thomas began to enjoy considerable success for his work, and for his own recordings and readings of his poems, his life was marred by alcoholism, which contributed to his early death.

Thomas was beloved in both the UK and the United States and he is considered an extraordinary influence on many artists. Bob Dylan changed his last name to Dylan in honor of Thomas. In Swansea, Wales numerous memorials honor Thomas’ brief, yet inspirational career. Thomas died in New York of alcohol poisoning, pneumonia and complications of emphysema but is buried in Wales.

The work of Dylan Thomas remains some of the most noted and celebrated in 20th century English poetry and literature. People often recall his poem, “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night,” which discussed his desire for his father to fight death. Another of his beloved poems is “Poem in October,” which lyrically recounts the poet’s 30th birthday.

Thomas definitely had a sense of humor, especially evident in his collection of short stories Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog and he had wide appeal. His work, “A Child’s Christmas in Wales,” is recollection of Welsh Christmases that children and adults will both enjoy. In fact, on treasure is the BBC film based on this story, which was narrated by the actor Denholm Eliot. For many, watching this production each year is a favorite Christmas activity.

In addition to short stories and poems, Dylan Thomas wrote the radio play, Under The Milk Wood which later was made into a film with actors Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. It would be impossible to describe all his works, but they were indeed extensive. Thomas’ work continues to inspire, delight and move readers, and though his life was cut short by alcoholism, his prolific and exceptional work left an indelible impression on literature.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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