Dylan Thomas (Dylan Marlais Thomas) Biography
(1914–53), (Dylan Marlais Thomas), Poet in the Making: The Notebooks of Dylan Thomas
Welsh poet, born in Swansea, Glamorgan, educated at Swansea Grammar School. Much of his verse originates in a series of notebooks dating from his schooldays, which have been published as Poet in the Making: The Notebooks of Dylan Thomas (edited by Ralph Maud, 1968; revised 1989). In 1931 he became a reporter with the South Wales Daily Post. 18 Poems (1934) was published in the year of his move to London. Twenty-Five Poems (1936) established his reputation as a poet of importance, partly as a result of Edith Sitwell's favourable review in the Sunday Times. Thomas's rhythmically compelling early verse explores the themes of birth, sex, and death through imagery he described as ‘derived … from the cosmic significance of the human body’. His influence was considerable during the later 1930s, most notably upon the poets of the New Apocalypse. The Map of Love (1939), a collection of poems and lyrical prose pieces, was followed by the humorously realistic short stories of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog (1940). A further collection of stories, Adventures in the Skin Trade (1955), has as its title piece Thomas's unfinished picaresque novel. Collected Stories was published in 1984. From 1934 to 1940 he worked intermittently as a literary journalist and acquired his enduring reputation for extravagant behaviour. Following his marriage to Caitlin MacNamara, in 1938 he began living in Laugharne, Carmarthenshire, which became his permanent home in 1949. The locality is reflected vividly in the coastal imagery of much of his later poetry. In 1940 he started working as a writer and reader for the BBC in London, where his friends Louis MacNeice and Roy Campbell were producers; selections from his work for radio, which prompted him to write his ‘play for voices’ Under Milk Wood (1954), were published under the title Quite Early One Morning (1954). Deaths and Entrances (1946), in which his poetry displays a more fluently lyrical manner, gained him exceptional acclaim. Between 1950 and 1953 he made four reading-tours of the USA, where he was enthusiastically received, particularly after the enormous success of his Collected Poems (1952). The period is documented in J. M. Brinnin's Dylan Thomas in America (1955). His death in New York was precipitated by a combination of alcohol and drugs administered for exhaustion. While opinion concerning the value of his work is divided, he remains one of the most widely read poets of the twentieth century. His Collected Letters, edited by Paul Ferris, was published in 1985; Walford Davies and Ralph Maud produced a new edition of Collected Poems in 1988. Constantine Fitzgibbon's The Life of Dylan Thomas (1965) is regarded as the standard biography.
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