Sunday, August 12, 2007


Around 1960-1962, we used to go down to Laugharne to visit the boathouse and Dylan's grave. David Dooley, Ivor Curnock, Marie Farrow and I used to take the bus down there and stay at a B&B. Our friend Ray James came with us once, too.

Dylan was a cultural icon in Wales even before he died in 1953 at the age of 39. After his death, he was the cultural icon, especially in Swansea, his home town, where I lived. You'd meet all kinds of people who had had encounters with Dylan, or claimed to have had them, invariably in pubs, the bar at the Grand Hotel, or the Hanbury, or the No. 10, or The Three Lamps, or The Cross Keys.

We used to read the poems, listen to records of Dylan reading the poems, listen to a record of Richard Burton reading the poems, and listen to the record of the BBC's 1954 broadcast of Under Milk Wood, with Richard Burton as First Voice.

In 1964, Ivor Curnock was First Voice in the Swansea Little Theatre's procuction of Under Milk Wood. Ivor is dead now. David Dooley became an actor, and he has been First Voice in a number of productions of
Under Milk Wood. He still lives in Swansea.

Dylan was everywhere, the ghost of Dylan was everywhere, and, if you were a poet from Swansea, well…
…but I've never been sorry to be asked to read "A Child's Christmas in Wales" at Christmas; I've done so many times.

After a reading I did in 1977, Tim Dlugos told me that the poet whose work my work reminded him the most was Dylan's. Tim had this great, mischievous grin on his face, as though he'd said something very perceptive that was going to make me uneasy, or embarrassed. I miss Tim. He had a great spirit.

(I've never understood the American pronunciation of "mischievous," as though the 'i' came after the 'v' and not before it. It's almost as bad as the case of "aluminium." Do people not see the second 'i'?)

Recently, I've taken to deconstructing some of Dylan's poems for readings, and that's been fun. I'd like to go back to his grave in Laugharne and read one of them there.


mark wallace said...

Is he one of those "guess you had to be there" artists? I had a Selected Poems of his at one point and gave up in horror. I know you've spoken to me and others several times about the Dylan Thomas legacy, and you were very understanding about why others don't like the work, and so on... but I still don't like the work. It's like some kind of long-out-of-date bad fashion statement. I remember trying to get out of the room quickly several times as a boy when people would perform bits of that Xmas story.

I'm sure you understand this is no comment against this fantastic blog.

douglang said...

Mark, I understand completely. And it is one of those "you had to be there" deals, to a large extent. There's a terrific essay by Kenneth Rexroth, "Disengagement: the Art of the Beat Generation," which might give some insight into the mystique. There'll be more about Dylan (and British poetry) in my next "autobiography" post. Your comment made me laugh out loud -- the "gave up in horror bit," and the Xmas bit was very funny, too.