A number of the people I’ve talked with about our recent trip to Wales don’t immediately recognize the name Dylan Thomas, whose trail we traveled along the country’s southern coast. But as soon as I say the words –
“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
– then people recognize that his words have touched their lives.
Dylan Thomas was born in Swansea Wales, a coastal town that also happens to be the birthplace of Catherine Zeta-Jones. Any of her fans will recognize that Dylan’s most famous play “Under Milk Wood” inspired the name of her production company. She also named her son Dylan because of his influence in her life.
You learn these things and so much more when you visit the Dylan Thomas Centre in Swansea. He was the son of a school teacher, yet a poor student. However, he owed much of his early success to the tutoring his father provided to eliminate the Welsh accent from his speech. To make it in London, you couldn’t sound like a Welshman.
Richard Burton was one of Thomas’ closest friends, and John Lennon personally selected an image of the Welsh poet/playwright to be included on the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album.
That was all fun and incredibly interesting, but I feel I connected with Thomas when we traveled on to Laugharne, where he wrote so much of his material from the boathouse and garage. I feel guilty writing in my climate-controlled, carpeted office.
The cliff side on which his home is perched is covered by wild blackberries and clematis, and the view of Carmarthen Bay beyond is magnificent, even on a cloudy, gray day, which is often the case anywhere in Wales. But it is a peaceful place at the edge of an engaging community, which I hope to visit again some day. My hope is that you aspire to visit as well.
Others will follow in our footsteps starting next week. The Dylan Thomas Festival begins on October 27, the day he was born in 1914, and concludes on November 9, the day he died in 1953.