Dylan Marlais Thomas (27 October 1914 – 9 November 1953) was a Welsh poet and writer whose works include the poems “Do not go gentle into that good night” and “And death shall have no dominion”; the ‘play for voices’ Under Milk Wood; and stories and radio broadcasts such as A Child’s Christmas in Wales and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog. He became widely popular in his lifetime and remained so after his premature death at the age of 39 in New York City. By then he had acquired a reputation, which he had encouraged, as a “roistering, drunken and doomed poet”.Thomas was born in Swansea, Wales, in 1914. An undistinguished pupil, he left school at 16 and became a journalist for a short time. Many of his works appeared in print while he was still a teenager, and the publication in 1934 of “Light breaks where no sun shines” caught the attention of the literary world. While living in London, Thomas met Caitlin Macnamara, whom he married in 1937. In 1938, they moved to the Welsh fishing village of Laugharne where from 1949 they settled permanently and brought up their three children.
Thomas came to be appreciated as a popular poet during his lifetime, though he found earning a living as a writer difficult. He began augmenting his income with reading tours and radio broadcasts. His radio recordings for the BBC during the late 1940s brought him to the public’s attention, and he was frequently used by the BBC as an accessible voice of the literary scene.
Thomas first travelled to the United States in the 1950s. His readings there brought him a degree of fame, while his erratic behaviour and drinking worsened. His time in America cemented his legend, however, and he went on to record to vinyl such works as A Child’s Christmas in Wales. During his fourth trip to New York in 1953, Thomas became gravely ill and fell into a coma, from which he never recovered. He died on 9 November 1953. His body was returned to Wales, where he was interred at the churchyard of St Martin’s in Laugharne on 25 November 1953.
Although Thomas wrote exclusively in the English language, he has been acknowledged as one of the most important Welsh poets of the 20th century. He is noted for his original, rhythmic and ingenious use of words and imagery. His position as one of the great modern poets has been much discussed, and he remains popular with the public.