Welcome to the summer 2017 Dylan Thomas news round-up. In our first update since January we look back at the third International Dylan Thomas Day in May, and at the award of the 2017 Dylan Thomas Prize. We also look at how Dylan’s words continue to inspire, with ‘Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night’ inspiring protesters and celebrities alike. As usual we have news of newly published and forthcoming books, and we’ve kept an eye on Dylan Thomas on television, radio and in the printed media.
Evidence of the power of Dylan’s words could be found during January’s Women’s March protests, when his words featured on numerous homemade banners and placards at protests around the world.
International Dylan Thomas Prize
Australian author Fiona McFarlane was announced as the winner of the 2017 International Dylan Thomas Prize at a ceremony at Swansea University on May 10th. Her winning book The High Places is a collection of short stories.
International Dylan Thomas Day
May 14th marked the third International Dylan Thomas Day, and this year’s celebrations built on those of the two previous years with hopes that the day can become an established fixture in our literary diaries. This was the final year of funding for the day from the Welsh Government via Literature Wales, so it was pleasing to note that many of the 60+ events around the world were independently arranged and funded. Mab Jones was project manager on behalf of Literature Wales for the second year running, and Andrew Dally of this website managed the social media for the third year in succession. On Twitter #DylanDay was the 18th most popular hashtag in the UK and was trending for 6 hours. Wales Arts Review awarded the day it’s Outstanding Achievement award for May.
The winning entries in the ‘Love the Words‘ young people’s poetry competition were also revealed on ‘Dylan Day’.
Dylan in Iran – New discoveries
Professor John Goodby of Swansea University has revealed new material about Dylan’s visit to Iran in 1951. Dr Nariman Massoumi, researching the promotional films made by Western oil companies in Iran, alerted Professor Goodby to the existence of an account of a meeting between Dylan and the Iranian film director Ebrahim Golestan. The account, by Golestan, was written in Farsi and has now been translated into English. It gives an insight into the little known episode in Dylan’s life, when he visited Persia to write the script for a proposed promotional film for the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company.
Jeff Towns honoured by Swansea University
Many congratulations to Jeff Towns on the award of an honorary degree by Swansea University. Jeff, an antiquarian bookseller, collector, author and media commentator, has been specializing in Dylan Thomas for over forty years. He has been a great supporter and friend to this website, and we are delighted to see him recognized this way.
Dylan & the Sunbathers
A concrete sculpture that had caught Dylan’s eye during his visit to the Festival of Britain in 1951 has been restored following a crowdfunding campaign by Historic England. The sculpture was found languishing in the garden of a Blackheath hotel, but was recognised after a public appeal by Historic England for lost public works of art. The concrete sculpture, The Sunbathers, by Peter Laszlo Peri, was described by Dylan as “the linked terra-cotta man and woman fly-defying gravity and elegantly hurrying up a w.c. wall”. Following a successful crowdfunding campaign the sculpture has been fully restored and has returned to public display at London’s Southbank Centre.
Do Not Go Gentle
Dylan’s best known poem continues to exert it’s influence on popular culture. As well as featuring as a rallying cry in January’s Women’s March (see above) the poem has also been used in promotional material by US pharmaceutical lobbying organisation PhRMA. The poem had high-profile supporters in popular culture too; Dwayne Johnson ‘The Rock‘ shared Dylan’s words to millions of followers on his social media platforms, as did Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine. Take That used a recording of the poem as an introduction to their song ‘Relight My Fire’ on their recent arena tour, and popular cultural blog Brain Pickings published an article about the poem.
Actor John Hurt‘s last major film role was in That Good Night, a film adaptation of N J Crisp’s play of the same name, which takes it’s title from Dylan’s ‘Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night’. Hurt, who died on January 22nd, recorded a reading of the poem for the film.
February saw the passing of Stanley Bard, long time owner and manager of the Chelsea Hotel in New York. Although Bard didn’t take over the running of the hotel until 1957, four years after Dylan fell into his final illness at the hotel, he continued the artist-friendly tradition that began at the hotel under the ownership of his father David Bard.
Theatre director Michael Bogdanov, who died in April, had a long time involvement with the work of Dylan Thomas. He directed multiple productions of Under Milk Wood and A Child’s Christmas in Wales, and in 2014 produced and directed one of the highlights of the Dylan Thomas centenary, the 36-hour long Dylathon at the Grand Theatre in Swansea. He was also a keen collector of Dylan Thomas material.
Former First Minister of Wales Rhodri Morgan died in May. He was a patron of the Dylan Thomas Centenary and a supporter of International Dylan Thomas Day. First Minster Carwyn Jones read Dylan’s ‘Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night’ at Morgan’s funeral.
Poet Heathcote Williams, who died in July, was taken by his father to see a recital by Dylan Thomas in 1951. He recalled the event in his 2015 memoir Of Dylan and his Deaths. The only line he remembered from the recital was ‘I see the boys of summer in their ruin’, and that only because his father had admonished him with the same line over the years.
A major addition to the study of the poems of Dylan Thomas, Discovering Dylan Thomas: A Companion to the Collected Poems and Notebook Poems by John Goodby, was published by University of Wales Press on March 31st and launched at the Wheatsheaf pub in Fitzrovia on International Dylan Thomas Day. Extracts from the book featured in Wales Arts Review, and the book has been reviewed in New Welsh Review. Dan Llywelyn Hall‘s artwork A Dream of Winter features on the cover.
The Poems of Dylan Thomas edited by John Goodby, will be published in the US by W.W. Norton & Company on October 31th.
Dylan features in Death of the Poets by Paul Farley & Michael Symmons Roberts, published by Jonathan Cape. The book was serialised on Radio 4’s Book of the Week.
David Jones, author of the epic war poem In Parenthesis, is the subject of a new biography by Thomas Dilworth. David Jones: Engraver, Soldier, Painter, Poet is published by Counterpoint LLC. Dylan acted in a BBC radio production of In Parenthesis, and once said he ‘would like to have done anything as good as David Jones has done’.
Wales Bird : Aderyn Rhiannon: Dylan Thomas and the American Empire, published by Martin Daws, is described as a bi-lingual collaborative book exploring Dylan Thomas’ influence as an international icon of Wales and a progenitor of Beat Culture in the USA. It includes a script of live performance of micro-lectures by Professor Daniel G. Williams with live bi-lingual poetic and musical interpretation by other authors. Wales Bird was launched at the London Welsh Centre on International Dylan Thomas Day.
Graffeg have published a series of bookmarks featuring Dylan Thomas quotations.
A fine art study of the Boathouse at Laugharne has been produced in various formats by Paper and Sticks.
Under Dubwood, featuring the words of Dylan Thomas, the voice of Richard Burton and the studio sounds of King Tubby, is being re-issued on vinyl by Caught by the River. First issued in 2012, the recording has been sold-out for the last eighteen months.
Radio, TV & Film
A Poet In New York, the BBC drama starring Tom Hollander, has been released on DVD.
Set Fire to The Stars, the 2014 film starring Celyn Jones and Elijah Wood, had it’s UK television premiere on BBC Wales on St David’s Day.
Dylan Watch on TV & Radio
Dylan’s appearance on the cover of The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper album was the subject of an episode of The Stars of Sgt Pepper presented by Cerys Matthews on Radio 4. Dylan’s death featured in the Radio 4 Book of the Week serialization of Death of the Poets. Words from Dylan’s Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night were quoted in the US sitcom Modern Family and in the ITV comedy drama Benidorm. There was a Dylan Thomas spoof on the Radio 4 sketch show Kevin Eldon Will See You Now. Dylan got a brief mention on a live broadcast from a pub in Mumbles on BBC Breakfast when Jeff Towns was asked about Dylan’s political views ahead of the recent General Election.
In the papers
John Goodby’s discoveries relating to Dylan’s time in Persia featured in an article in The Times, and New Welsh Review carried an article about the discovery last year of a memoir by Dylan’s former GP in Laugharne. In an interview for the New York Times Okkervil River front-man Will Sheff revealed the boyhood influence of Dylan Thomas. The Dylan Thomas Prize garnered coverage in a number of outlets including The Guardian, and DT Prize short-listed author Sarah Perry chose the Boathouse at Laugharne as one of her Cultural Highlights in the same paper. Dylan was one of four poets to feature in Stephen Collins’ ‘poets with smart phones’ cartoon in The Guardian. Gardening magazine Rakes Progress carried a piece on Dylan Thomas in Laugharne by Hilly Janes, and a feature on Dylan Thomas appeared in the August 2017 issue of Countryside magazine.
The Half Moon pub at Herne Hill, a former drinking haunt of Dylan’s, has been short-listed for a blue plaque. A plaque will be awarded as part of the Southwark Blue Plaques Scheme, and voting closes on September 15th.
The Dylan Thomas Birthplace has received a Hudson’s Heritage Special Judges Award for Best Place to Stay. Owner Geoff Haden accepted the award at a ceremony at Goldsmith’s Hall in the City of London.
The Dylan Thomas Centre has been shortlisted for a Kids in Museums Family Friendly Museum Award; the winner will be announced in October.A new temporary exhibition ‘I might want to smile‘ has opened at the Centre, and runs until December 22nd. The exhibition looks at Dylan’s sense of humour, and includes loan material from the National Library of Wales alongside items from their own collection. A spoof of Under Milk Wood written by Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall for the BBC’s ‘That Was the Week That Was’ is on show for the first time. The Centre had a high-profile visitor in May when Lewis Lukens, Acting Ambassador at the US Embassy in London, visited the ‘Love the Words’ exhibition.
Dylan’s famous description of Swansea as ‘Ugly, lovely’ has been taken up by the team bidding to secure 2021 UK City of Culture status for the city. Swansea has reached the final five alongside Coventry, Paisley, Stoke on Trent and Sunderland, and final bids must be submitted by the end of September.
Artist Glenys Cour has been the subject of a major retrospective at the newly re-opened Glynn Vivian Art Gallery in Swansea. Cour’s exhibition, The Colour of Saying: an artist and her world included work inspired by Dylan who she met through her husband the sculptor Ronald Cour.
One of the last-known sketches of Dylan drawn during his lifetime has been gifted to Swansea Council. The sketch, drawn by Canadian-born artist Gordon Stuart in 1953, was presented to the Council by Dr Wyn Gittins.
Hotel Chelsea makeover
The first images of the newly renovated Hotel Chelsea have been released. The New York hotel, where Dylan was staying when he died in 1953, has been closed since 2011 and has had a troubled redevelopment.
Under Milk Wood in Patagonia
A 12-minute film about the making of a production of Under Milk Wood in Patagonia was released for International Dylan Thomas Day. The project is being supported by the British Council, and the complete film will be released this September.
Llansteffan Literary Festival
A new literary festival was held in Llansteffan the Carmarthenshire village well known to Dylan Thomas and his family. The festival, organized by Parthian Books supremo Richard Davies, included a Dylan related talk by Hilly Janes and John Goodby, and was visited by Jeff Towns with his Dylan’s Bookbus. Let’s hope the festival returns again in the future.
Sea View For Sale
The Laugharne house where Dylan and Caitlin lived for two years in the late 1930s is up for sale.
The Canonization of Dylan Thomas
Bernard Schwartz, director of the 92nd Street Y’s Poetry Center, has written a fascinating article on Dylan’s literary afterlife for the Literary Hub website.
A copy of Deaths and Entrances featured in the sale of cricket commentator Henry Blofeld’s library at Chiswick Auctions.
Visit www.discoverdylanthomas.com for the lastest Dylan Thomas events.
Categories: Arts News