Dylan Thomas centenary to "right wrongs" about bohemian bard

Tue Jun 17, 2014 10:29am EDT
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By Nigel Stephenson

LAUGHARNE Wales (Reuters) - This year's centenary of Welsh poet Dylan Thomas's birth has sparked a creative explosion and for some is also a chance to reassess a writer whose bohemian reputation as a drunk and a womanizer has sometimes eclipsed his work.

The year-long commemoration has already inspired a new, television version of Thomas's radio play "Under Milk Wood", starring veteran singer Tom Jones, and an opera based on the same work. A whole new dictionary of Thomas-style invented words suggested by the public is also in the pipeline.

The Dylan Thomas 100 festival includes events across Wales - some of them in the estuary-side village of Laugharne where he and his wife Caitlin lived for 15 years - as well as in London and New York, where the poet died in 1953, aged just 39.

Organizers of the festival, which took two years to plan, hope it will bring Thomas's poetry to new readers, inspire a fresh generation of artists and bring him the recognition in academic circles that some say he has been unfairly denied.

They also hope to shift public attention away from Thomas's complicated love life and alcohol-fuelled death and towards some of the most-quoted verse in the English language.

"Rage, rage against the dying of the light," is one of his.

"I'm a bit sick of the public image of him as a person and a poet and of the mythic qualities that have crystallized about him and obscured his work," fellow Welsh poet Owen Sheers told an audience at the Hay Festival in Wales last month.

Lleucu Siencyn, chief executive of Literature Wales, agrees the centenary is a chance to "right some wrongs" and to show that viewing Thomas as a "ne'er do well" misses the point.   Continued...

A statue of Captain Cat, one of the characters from Dylan Thomas' Under Milk Wood, is pictured in Swansea Marina, Wales, June 13, 2014.    REUTERS/Rebecca Naden