Adam Dyster shows us how we can all be just like the celebrated poet
Last week marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of Dylan Thomas, celebrated poet, dramatist and general wit. He’s naturally regarded as a Welsh hero – he was born in Swansea and lived on the ‘heron priested shores’ of Laugharne, Camarthenshire.
But, as a recent festival has shown, Dylan was also a London figure, living, working and drinking in Fitzrovia and Bloomsbury. We explore seven ways you can follow in Dylan’s footsteps and maybe, just maybe, achieve poetic perfection.
Have a pint in one of Dylan’s old haunts
Almost as famous for his drinking as he is for his poetry, Dylan certainly liked a drink (or three). Legend has it that, before he died his last words were ‘I’ve had 18 straight whiskies; I think that’s the record’ (although this was probably an exaggeration).
Just a few minutes’ walk from UCL are some of Dylan’s favourite drinking haunts – The Fitzroy Tavern on Charlotte Street, the Wheatsheaf on Rathbone Place where he first met his wife, and the nearby Marquis of Granby.
Visit his wartime workplace: Senate House
During WW2, Senate House was briefly used as the base for the Ministry of Information. Dylan worked here, producing propaganda films and radio broadcasts for the war effort. You can read more about his wartime works here, but it’s easy to imagine Senate House as a tower of propaganda in the 1940s – indeed the building was said to have inspired fellow writer Orwell and 1984.
Be imaginative in your excuses
Dylan once missed his close friends’ wedding – despite being the groom’s best man. He claimed to have missed the first train, narrowly catching another only to hail a taxi but forget the name of the church. This was, however far from the truth – it was later revealed that he was trying to borrow money from his publisher – but such was the poet’s charm that he remained good friends with the wed couple.
Explore his bohemian love life
Dylan’s love life was often like his work – romantic and passionate, but also dramatic. He and his wife Caitlin had a close, but often tense relationship, fraught with jealousy. The Edge of Love, featuring Kiera Knightley and Sienna Miller, takes inspiration from the Thomas’ relationship, with a rich, but often sombre portrayal of Dylan’s wartime life.
Listen to one of Dylan’s most famous works
Under Milk Wood, Dylan’s best-known radio play, explores one day in the fictional Welsh village of Llangerub (Bugerall backwards), and the many stories of its inhabitants. To celebrate the centenary of his birth, Michael Sheen led a reading of the play in New York – you can listen to a recording here (the play starts at 1hr 6mins)
Take a nap
A recent BBC documentary interviewed a number of people who met Dylan, including Elaine Kidwell. According to her, Dylan would visit Swansea Museum as the pubs closed for the afternoon – only to nap in a special chair in the museum’s toilets! Points for trying this at the British Museum after a boozy Court session.
Delve into Dylan’s poetry
Naturally, one can’t pay tribute to Dylan’s genius without admiring his literary works. From his fiery rage against mortality and human frailty in Do No Go Gentle, to his elegies for his childhood in Swansea, his poems still amaze with their beauty and imagery.
Featured image credit: John Levin