International Dylan Thomas Day
Also known as
annually on May 14th (since 2015)
Today we celebrate the life and work of Dylan Thomas, a Welsh writer and poet whose best-known pieces include the poem "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night" and the play Under Milk Wood. The holiday is celebrated on the anniversary of the first reading of Under Milk Wood, which took place on May 14, 1953, at the 92Y Poetry Center in New York City. The day is organized by Literature Wales and is funded by the Welsh government, which consults with the Thomas family, the Dylan Thomas estate, and other stakeholders. Events are held around the world, and the International Dylan Thomas Prize is awarded during the week.
Dylan Thomas was born on October 27, 1914, in Swansea, Wales. In 1931, at the age of 16, he left school to become a reporter and started working for the South Wales Daily Post. He also had written many poems by this point and started putting them into notebooks. He left reporting at the end of 1932 to focus solely on poetry. The following year, "And Death Shall Have No Dominion" was published in New English Weekly, which marked the first time he was published internationally.
In the Spring of 1934, "Light Breaks Where No Sun Shines" appeared as an entry in The Year's Poetry. It was the first time one of Thomas's poems appeared in book form. His first full collection of poems, 18 Poems, was published in December 1934. Many of these poems came from the notebooks of his youth. Similar collections were published in subsequent years: Twenty Five Poems (1936), The Map of Love (1939), and Deaths and Entrances (1946). Thomas's work hearkened back to the Romantic era of poetry, which contrasted with many of his contemporaries, who focused on social and intellectual topics in their work.
Beyond poetry, Thomas worked as a scriptwriter and for the BBC during World War II. He also wrote some plays and prose, including A Child's Christmas in Wales and Under Milk Wood. In 1937, he married Caitlin Macnamara, and they had two sons and a daughter. Financial struggle followed Thomas throughout his life, and he at times was in debt. He also became a heavy drinker, which ultimately led to his downfall.
Thomas was known for his invigorating readings and did them to bring in extra income. He toured the United States four times, with his last tour taking place in 1953. His final performance was at City College in New York City in October 1953. Afterward, he went on a drinking binge at the White Horse Tavern and later collapsed at the Chelsea Hotel. He died at a New York City hospital on November 9, 1953. His causes of death were listed as pneumonia, fatty liver, and swelling of the brain. He was just 39. Although his life was short, he left a great body of notable work and has influenced countless writers after him. Today we celebrate his legacy!
How to Observe
Here are some ideas on how to celebrate the day:
- Explore Dylan Thomas's work.
- Browse some of Thomas' books and recordings.
- Listen to and view some audio and video clips of Dylan Thomas.
- Attend an International Dylan Thomas Day event.
- Read a Dylan Thomas biography.
- View the online Dylan Thomas exhibition at the National Library of Wales.
- Read Under Milk Wood.
- Watch the film adaptation of Under Milk Wood.
- Check out the International Dylan Thomas Day Facebook page.
- Visit the White Horse Tavern, where Thomas had his final drinking bout.
- Stop at the Chelsea Hotel, where Thomas fell ill.
- Go on the Official Dylan Thomas Walking Tour of Greenwich Village.
- Visit the 92Y Poetry Center, where the first reading of Under Milk Wood took place on today's date in 1953. The 92Y Poetry Center also has an online exhibit about Thomas that you could view.
- Visit the Dylan Thomas Centre or the Dylan Thomas Birthplace in Swansea, Wales.
- Follow the Dylan Thomas Trail in New Quay, Wales.
- Stop at the Dylan Thomas memorial stone at Westminster Abbey.
- Go on another walking tour, visit other places related to Dylan Thomas, or check out other resources related to him. (Some previously mentioned are listed here.)
- Learn about the International Dylan Thomas Prize, which is given out during the week of International Dylan Thomas Day.
- Join the Dylan Thomas Society.