October 27 marks the 100th anniversary of poet Dylan Thomas birth, and folks around the world are celebrating with readings, performances or simply taking a quiet moment to read a Thomas poem.
While the Welsh poet is known for poems such “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night, and the play “Under the Milk Wood,” he was just as well-known for his hard drinking and tragically short life.
Born in 1914, Thomas was about 16 years years old when he began copying his early poems into what would become known as his notebooks—a practice he continued for years and which contributed to several of his first collections.
When still a teenager, he left school to become a junior reporter at the South Wales Daily Post. The job didn’t last long as he quit to devote himself to poetry full time.
After his poem “and death shall have no dominion” was published in 1933, Thomas began traveling to England and meeting with editors of well-regarded literary magazines. His star rose fast in the literary world, and with his emotional and flamboyant reading style he was a sought after reader in both England and the U.S.
The poet who inspired The Beatles put him on the cover of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” or Robert Zimmerman to rename himself Bob Dylan, died at the age of 39 from pneumonia and alcohol complications. Thomas took the very personal and made it universal, exploring memory, childhood and what it means to feel truly at home in the world.
Take a moment this week to celebrate Thomas. If you can’t make it to Swansea, Wales for the 36-hour long “Dylathon” featuring readings by Ian McKellen and Prince Charles, or New York’s 92Y Poetry Center’s reading of his play “Under Milk Wood,” or Portland where local actors will set up at a downtown bar and read from some of Thomas’ greatest works, then grab a collection of Thomas’ poetry or check out this Youtube recording below: