8 Glorious Hours of Dylan Thomas Reading Poetry–His Own & Others’

“To choose what I should read tonight, I looked through sev­en­ty odd poems of mine, and found that many are odd indeed and that some may be poems,” said Dylan Thomas in a 1949 BBC broad­cast. “I decid­ed not to choose those that strike me, still, as pret­ty pecu­liar, but to stick to a few of the ones that do move a lit­tle way towards the state and des­ti­na­tion I imag­ine I intend­ed to be theirs when, in small rooms in Wales, arro­gant­ly and devot­ed­ly I began them.”

This intro­duc­tion to an evening’s read­ing on the radio sur­vives in Spo­ti­fy’s playlist “Read­ings from Dylan Thomas,” which col­lects eight hours of not just the poet read­ing his own work, but oth­ers’ as well. (If you don’t have Spo­ti­fy’s free soft­ware, you can down­load it here.) Though the hard-drink­ing, usu­al­ly impe­cu­nious Thomas died young in 1953, he man­aged to attain an impres­sive degree of fame dur­ing his life­time, espe­cial­ly by the stan­dards of poets. His fre­quent read­ing tours and radio gigs ulti­mate­ly made him some­thing of a “peo­ple’s poet” for Great Britain.

“My grand­fa­ther made 145 sep­a­rate engage­ments with the BBC,” says Thomas’ grand­daugh­ter Han­nah Ellis in the British Coun­cil video on Thomas and the BBC f0und here. “These includ­ed writ­ing scripts, read­ing poet­ry and short sto­ries, as well as act­ing. He also became a reg­u­lar on many pan­el dis­cus­sions, mak­ing him a well-known radio per­son­al­i­ty.” His ties with the radio world and resul­tant high pub­lic pro­file have kept his voice unusu­al­ly well-pre­served by com­par­i­son to those of his con­tem­po­raries: we can now hear him much more eas­i­ly than even his fans could at the height of his fame in the late 1940s.

“I’ve bored my wife to death for years by say­ing (among oth­er things that have also bored her to death) that when you lis­ten to poet­ry you should always be giv­en an idea of the ‘shape’ of the poem,” Thomas said in anoth­er BBC appear­ance. The 102 tracks of this Spo­ti­fy playlist include a few of those non-poet­ic speech­es, but only after a recita­tion of what we might call Thomas’ big hit, “Do Not Go Gen­tle Into That Good Night.” But as with the cat­a­log of any record­ing artist, it pays to spend more time among the deep cuts — even the poems Thomas him­self might have thought “odd indeed” — and these eight hours deliv­er plen­ty of them, each with a shape of its own.

This playlist will be added to our col­lec­tion, 1,000 Free Audio Books: Down­load Great Books for Free.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Dylan Thomas Recites ‘Do Not Go Gen­tle into That Good Night’ and Oth­er Poems

Dylan Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gen­tle Into That Good Night” Per­formed by John Cale (and Pro­duced by Bri­an Eno)

Hear Dylan Thomas Read Three Poems by W.H. Auden, Includ­ing “Sep­tem­ber 1, 1939”

Dylan Thomas Sketch­es a Car­i­ca­ture of a Drunk­en Dylan Thomas

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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  • Toad says:

    He was a very good per­former. One more read­ing of his was the leg­endary (is it? to me, any­way) per­for­mance of Under Milk Wood with him lead­ing the cast. I used to have it on cas­sette tape back in the day, and I wore that thing out–played it for my friends like a favorite album of music. As I write this part one (with the oth­er parts also uploaded by the same YouTube user) is here:


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