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Dylan Thomas 1914-1953

Not since Byron had someone so captured the public imagination for living the archetypal poet's life. Dylan Thomas' life was tempestuous, but his poetry was meticulously constructed, with the poet labouring through redraft and redraft, to produce lyric poems of passionate musicality.

Dylan Marlais Thomas was born in "ugly, lovely" Swansea in 1914, and raised to speak only English despite both his parents having fluent Welsh. His first job was as a reporter on the South Wales Evening Post, but Thomas soon decided to move to London. An asthmatic, Dylan was classed as unfit to serve in the armed forces, and he spent the Second World War working for Strand Films. In 1946 he published Death and Entrances to great acclaim, and his powerful reading voice made him popular on radio and at live events.

His most celebrated work for the BBC is Under Milk Wood, a verse radio play that drew heavily on the idyllic Carmarthenshire holidays of his youth. Its completion allegedly exists partly thanks to his producer Stella Hillier who dragged him from pubs to make sure it got finished. Welsh actors Richard Burton and Anthony Hopkins have both performed memorably versions of Under Milk Wood. Thomas toured America in the early 1950s increasing his reputation, but putting strain on his marriage to Caitlin Macnamara. His hard-drinking habits also took their toll and he died of pneumonia in New York in 1953.

Thomas' life and loves were explored in the 2008 film The Edge of Love, starring Keira Knightly, Sienna Miller and Matthew Rhys.



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