An international day to celebrate the life and work of Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, held each year on 14th May, the anniversary of the date when Under Milk Wood was first read on stage at 92Y The Poetry Center, New York in 1953.
“International Dylan Thomas Day gives us a chance each year to celebrate Dylan Thomas’s achievements. There is still the enthusiasm for a national day to mark my grandfather’s life and legacy and we want to keep May 14th as a prominent date on the literary calendar.
Dylan Thomas’s writing has travelled through time – it is as relevant today in our troubled times as when it was written sixty-five years ago. It continues to travel across the globe reaching new audiences everyday. His poetry lives on.
We invite you to tell us about how you are going to mark the day and encourage you, wholeheartedly, to get involved and to love the words.” — Hannah Ellis, Granddaughter of Dylan Thomas
The photographer Rollie McKenna was at this 92Y reading of Under Milk Wood, to photograph Dylan Thomas, and she writes this in her autobiography, Rollie McKenna: A Life in Photography (Knopf, 1991),
“Dylan Thomas’s career didn’t truly take off until he ‘hit’ the United States. Readings at the Poetry Center and tours throughout the country where–in his own words–he ‘boomed and fiddled while home was burning,’ all but devoured him. The money he made, so necessary to support his family, passed through his fingers like water. The praise, so addictive, was fleeting. Still, he wanted to read again to his vastly appreciative American audiences and, above all, to write the final ending to his play for voices, Under Milk Wood.
Frenetic reading tours, sycophant-laden parties and late-night bar-hopping exhausted him, and just an hour before rehearsing the actors for the first New York performance of Under Milk Wood, Dylan was in particularly bad shape. On arriving at the Poetry Center, he vomited, declared that he could not possibly go on and collapsed in the green room. After half an hour, he was shaken awake. Pulling himself together, he directed for an astonishing three hours, urging the actors over and over: ‘Love the words. Love the words!’ I was so dumbfounded by his recovery that I almost forgot to shoot.
When the night of May 14, 1953, arrived, the theater was packed. The audience, silent at first, then tittering, finally exploded into laughter on realizing that this was no highbrow affair but a loving, ribald tribute to a village. Dylan took fifteen curtain calls as tears slipped down his face.”
featuring Model: Liz Walz
Stonington, CT USA
Photograph by Michelle Gemma
for the series “Personal Universe”