Dylan Thomas in 1950

It was on this day in 1950 that the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas embarked on his first reading tour of the United States. He had always wanted to travel to America because he’d grown up in Wales watching American cowboy movies and American cartoons. The man who arranged for the reading tour picked him up at the airport, and they drove toward Manhattan. When Thomas saw the skyline he said, “I knew America would be just like this.”
He was immediately put in the literary spotlight, but he claimed not to enjoy his new fame. In an interview with the New York Times Book Review, he said he missed being a young unknown poet. He said, “Then I was arrogant and lost. Now I am humble and found. I prefer that other.” When asked why he came to New York, Thomas said, “To continue my lifelong search for naked women in wet mackintoshes.”
The tour lasted until June, and Thomas spent that time traveling to various American universities, where he attended faculty parties and gave readings to packed houses of several thousand listeners at each performance. Thomas himself had never finished college, and he was terrified of academics. So he got terribly drunk at all the faculty parties, shouting obscenities and hitting on all the women. Everyone was shocked and horrified. ***
When the time would come for Thomas to give his reading, even though he had been nearly incapacitated a few hours beforehand, he would always come out on stage and stun the audience with his performance. He had a deep, sonorous voice, and audiences would hang on his every word. He didn’t just read his own poetry. He recited a huge number of poems by other poets, and finished the show with one or two poems of his own. After the shows, he was mobbed by fans.
The reading tour seemed to go on and on. He traveled all the way to California and back. In letters to his wife, he complained that the tour was wearing him out. He wrote, “I’m hardly living. I’m just a voice on wheels.” He also grew less impressed with America, which he described as “This vast, mad horror, that doesn’t know its size, or its strength, or its weakness, or its barbaric speed, stupidity, din, self-righteousness, this cancerous Babylon.”

0 thoughts on “Dylan Thomas in 1950

  1. When asked why he came to New York, Thomas said, “To continue my lifelong search for naked women in wet mackintoshes.” hahaha! lmao!
    Thomas also did a lot of visual poetry. The following is supposed to be in the shape of a diamond:
    Are you
    Who is born
    In the next room
    So loud to my own
    That I can hear the womb
    Opening and the dark run
    Over the ghost and the dropped son
    Behind the wall thin as a wren’s bone?
    In the birth bloody room unknown
    To the burn and turn of time
    And the heart print of man
    Bows no baptism
    But dark alone
    Blessing on
    The wild

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