Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)
Born in Wales, he transferred his Welshness and his intemperate personality into his "visionary" poems, somewhat obscure but alwyas rich in musicality, imagery and technical originality. Often defined as "organic", since it seems to grow organically like plants or living creature, his poetry is also characterized by a particular use of words chosen above all for their peculiar sound or "voice" an better appreciated and enjoyed if the poems are read aloud.
Dylan Thomas was born in 1914 in Swansea, a port in South Wales, and the landscape of the coast and countryside of this area, together with its people, traditions, customs and his own experiences, from childhood to manhood, always remained one of his richest resources of inspiration. After leaving school, he briefly became a reporter on a Swansea newspaper.
The period from 1930 to 1934 was characterized by an intense poetic activity: he wrote, in fact, most of the poems collected in his first three volumes of poetry. In 1934 he published Twenty-five Poems, which ranked him, at only 24 years of age, among the greatest contemporary British poets.
The strong critical support he won encouraged him to make his living as a writer - a decision that requires great courage together with confidence in his own creative powers. To some extent he was helped by BBC commissions to write radio plays and to broadcast readings of his own or other poets' works.
In spite of all this he was penniless, since he tended to spend his money as soon as he earned it, and quite often depended on the generosity of his friends. Fond of drinking, he was often seen sitting in a pub and scribbling lines in his notebooks over a glass of beer, which became his favorite way of writing.
After marrying Caitlin Macnamara, with whom he had two sons and a daughter, Aeronwy, he returned to live his restless spirit to lead a nomadic, penniless kind of life. When the Second War broke out he fell into a state of depression; this also affected his poetry which, now no longer as subjective and private as before, became more detached and committed.
After the war, in 1947, he was invited by a friend for a short stay in Italy, where he met the poets Mario Luzi and Piero Bigongiari, and where Caitlin would eventually die in 1994. In 1950 the need for money led him to take on a series of public poetry readings in the United States, where he was immensely successful. He became something of a legend both for his impassioned, almost "bardic" style of reading and for his undisciplined, dissipated life.
The emotional pressures and social temptations of these lecture tours led him into various excesses, especially over-indulgence in alcohol, and the outcome was tragic: he died in New York on November 9th, 1953, at the age of 39, of bronchial complications brought on by alcoholism.