Gillian Clarke: Dylan Thomas play changed my life

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Dylan ThomasImage source, Francis Reiss/PicturePost/Getty
Image caption,
The life of poet Dylan Thomas is being celebrated around the world

As the world celebrates the centenary of the birth of Dylan Thomas, the National Poet of Wales has hailed him as one of the all-time literary greats.

Gillian Clarke has spent the past 12 months re-reading the works of Swansea-born Thomas.

She said: "Under Milk Wood changed my life. I think Dylan Thomas, Auden and TS Eliot changed everything."

Thomas' granddaughter Hannah Ellis said the centenary celebrations across the globe had exceeded her expectations.

Media caption,

Gillian Clarke says Under Milk Wood changed her life

She said: "I think Wales and the world as a whole have celebrated the centenary more than I could have hoped.

"My aim was to revitalise my grandfather's work and bring the focus back to his writing and celebrate his achievements.

"People like the myths about my grandfather, but it's the writing that is the legacy."

A poet's life

  • Dylan was born on 27 October, 1914 at 5 Cwmdonkin Drive, Swansea
  • In 1931, at the age of 16, Thomas left school to become a junior reporter at the South Wales Daily Post
  • Thomas married Caitlin Macnamara in 1937, and the couple went on to have two sons and a daughter
  • His most famous poem, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, was written in 1951
  • Thomas's celebrated prose includes Under Milk Wood and A Child's Christmas in Wales
  • He died aged 39 on 9 November 1953 in St Vincent's Hospital, New York


Thomas was born in Swansea 100 years ago and there are events in his home city and across the globe to remember both the man and his work.

Media caption,

Rev Dr Vernon Davies was a friend in the sixth form in Swansea when both worked on the school magazine

On Sunday Michael Sheen's production of Under Milk Wood was staged in New York - where the writer died on 9 November, 1953.

The performance was broadcast live on BBC Wales on Sunday and can be heard for the next 30 days.

There is also a free interactive BBC e-book, Dylan Thomas - The Road to Milk Wood, which includes video and audio of performances from the likes of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.

In Swansea, every word Thomas wrote is being read aloud on stage at the Grand Theatre as part of the Dylathon.

Media caption,

The life of poet Dylan Thomas is being celebrated around the world

And the annual Dylan Thomas festival is also beginning to coincide with other events around the world.

They are the latest in a year-long programme of celebrations remembering one of the 20th Century's greatest writers.

Gillian Clarke said hearing Under Milk Wood set her on the path to becoming a poet.

She said: "I heard Under Milk Wood and it was so funny, so touching, so human, so like the things that go on in a real human's head.

Media caption,

Michael Bogdanov, director of The Dylathon said it had been a busy three months planning it

"It was just amazing. It changed my life. I thought this is literature. I think of it as a marvellous poem.

"It broke new ground in poetry. It broke every taboo that stopped me writing.

"Suddenly I began to believe it was possible [to be a poet] because of Under Milk Wood.

"I've even read every word by Dylan Thomas in preparation for this year and it excites me even more."

Up coming Dylan Thomas events around the world

26-27 Oct: The Dylathon, Swansea

26 Oct - 4 Dec: Dylan Thomas Centennial Exhibition at the 92Y, New York

29 Oct-1 Nov: Bedazzled, Cardiff

27 Oct: Love the Words exhibition opens at Dylan Thomas Centre, Swansea

27 Oct-9 Nov: The Dylan Thomas Festival, Swansea

27 Oct: Cerys Matthews' new recording A Child's Christmas, Poems and Tiger Eggs is released

30 Oct: Dylan Thomas a Literary Life, Sydney University

30 Oct- 8 Nov: A Child's Christmas in Wales, Grand Theatre, Swansea

Oct - 4 Dec: Dylan exhibition continues at National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth

Source: The Dylan Thomas Centenary

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