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‘To begin at the beginning’, let me introduce you to Dylan Marlais Thomas – arguably Wales’ most famous literary export who was important enough to have his own celebration day in Wales.
Dylan Thomas Day takes place on 14th of May each year to celebrate Dylan Thomas, a Welsh poet and writer, who is famous for poems such as ‘Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night’ and plays including ‘Under Milk Wood’. His work saw him travel across the world and he has been an inspiration for other poets and songwriters, including Bob Dylan.
In the rest of this article, I’ll you more about the man himself, and the day created to remember his life and work.
How is Dylan Thomas Day Celebrated?
There are many ways to celebrate Dylan Thomas Day, with arts organisations, schools and literature lovers worldwide encouraged to read his work, write your own poetry or stories, or to take a trip to a location synonymous to him.
There are many educational resources made available to recognise the Day, and a regular Poetry and Photography competition also takes place each year, hosted by the International Dylan Thomas Day team.
When is Dylan Thomas Day?
International Dylan Thomas Day started in 2014, it is held on May 14th each year. This date is significant as it is the day that ‘Under Milk Wood’, one of his most famous works, was first read on stage at The Poetry Centre, New York in 1953; sadly also the year that Thomas died.
The event has been encouraged and inspired by Hannah Ellis, the granddaughter of Dylan Thomas and the Creative Coordinator for his literary estate. Hannah works closely with a team fondly known as the ‘Dylan Day’ team, who coordinate activities in Wales and beyond1 (source: Literature Wales).
Here are the days that Dylan Thomas Day will be held over the next five years:
|Year||Date of Dylan Thomas Day|
|2023||Sunday 14th May|
|2024||Tuesday 14th May|
|2025||Wednesday 14th May|
|2026||Thursday 14th May|
|2027||Friday 14th May|
Who Was Dylan Thomas?
Dylan Thomas was born on October 27th, 1914 in Swansea, and died in New York City on November 9th 1953, at the age of 39. Despite his short life, he became well-known for a range of work, from poetry, to plays and short stories.
His appearances on BBC Radio in the late 1940s helped to raise his profile, with his distinctive voice giving life to whatever he was reading.
His social exploits sometimes generated more fame than his writing, with his drinking becoming quite infamous. Some say that he played up to this and pretended to be drunk when reporters were around. Others say that it was very real, and it caused quite erratic behaviour and likely his early death.
Thomas became very ill on his fourth trip to America in 1953, falling into a coma and then dying on November 9th 1953. His body was returned to Wales, and he is buried in St Martin’s churchyard in Laugharne.
Thomas also inspired many musicians:
- Dylan’s image appears on The Beatles’ ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club’ band record cover
- Robert Zimmerman, or Bob Dylan, often regarded as one of the greatest songwriters of modern times, took the ‘Dylan’ part of his name from Thomas in the early days of his career in 19593 (source: Folk Works).
Famous Dylan Thomas Works
Dylan Thomas wrote hundreds of individual pieces of work in his short life – from radio plays, to poems and short stories.
Some of his most famous poems include: ‘Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night’, ‘And Death Shall Have No Dominion’ and ‘Fern Hill’. These poems have been used in many films, songs and books worldwide since his death, with several films also dedicated to him.
His radio play ‘Under Milk Wood’, set in the fictional Welsh village of Llareggub (read it backwards for some of Dylan’s Welsh wit), has become an iconic piece of work performed worldwide.
Learn More About Dylan Thomas
If you’re looking for some places to visit on Dylan Thomas Day to learn more about Wales’ most famous poet, here are some recommendations:
- The Dylan Thomas Centre in Swansea is perhaps the best place to visit as an introduction to his life, and for a much closer look at his work. The Centre is situated in the city centre overlooking the harbour and contains a vast number of displays from and about Dylan himself, as well as permanent exhibitions which tell the story of his life and death.
- Equally interesting, and historically important, you can visit the Dylan Thomas Boat House in Laugharne, Carmarthenshire. Dylan first visited Laugharne as a 19 year old, and owned a couple of different properties in the area before buying the spectacularly-positioned Boat House. It was the place he lived when he made his final journey to New York in 1953.
- As well as the Boat House itself, the Writing Shed he used (just a short walk away from the house) is preserved in the condition he kept it. You can peer through the window and get a feeling of the environment that the genius worked within.
- Dylan’s birthplace in Cwmdonkin Drive, Swansea has also been restored in recent years, allowing visitors to rent a space and actually sleep in the house he was born within. This is a very unique experience for people wanting to get closer to Dylan Thomas. The current owners of the property have lovingly restored it to be appropriate to the time of his birth, and also arrange special events, like walking tours, afternoon tea and Edwardian dinners.
- As well as his grave in Carmarthenshire, there is a memorial dedicated to Dylan Thomas in Westminster Abbey within ‘Poet’s Corner’. This is a section dedicated to famous writers, he sits between memorials of Lord Byron, and George Eliot.
Other Important Celebration Days in Wales
Here are several other important national days:
St David’s Day – This is the main celebration day in Wales, dedicated to St David, the patron saint of Wales.
St Dwynwen’s Day – This is like the Welsh valentines day held on 25th January each year.
Owain Glyndwr Day – Owain Glyndwr was a heroic Welsh leader and the last Welsh person to be Prince of Wales. The day takes place on this date which is the same date that he instigated the revolt.
Kieren is the founder and editor-in-chief of Wales Guidebook. Originally from rural Mid-Wales, he has lived all over the country from Cardiff to Wrexham. A true Welshman, Kieren created this site to share his passion for Wales and help others discover this beautiful country.