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Last Updated: Sunday, 5 October, 2003, 14:53 GMT 15:53 UK
Poet archbishop at Thomas festival
By Nick Dermody
BBC News Online

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams
Well versed: Dr Williams talks on Thomas, a fellow poet from the Swansea area
The Archbishop of Canterbury is to be a guest speaker at Swansea's festival to mark the 50th anniversary of the death of Dylan Thomas.

Dr Rowan Williams, who is a published poet himself, will talk about his love of Wales' most famous bard whose best work arguably draws on the meaning of life and death.

Thomas was born and brought up in Swansea while Dr Williams, who leads the world's 70m Anglicans and was formerly the Archbishop of Wales, was raised in a Welsh-speaking family in the Swansea Valley.

The archbishop heads a list of celebrities, poets and performers taking part in weeks of events to celebrate the life of the hard-living poet who died aged just 39 in November 1953 in New York after yet another mammoth drinking bout.

He is to give a talk at Swansea's Dylan Thomas Centre, the focal point of the city's cultural festivities in memory of Thomas.

Dylan Thomas
Life and death: The festival celebrates the work of Dylan Thomas

The evening, on 31 October, is the same night as comedian and writer Alexei Sayle gives his take on Thomas' short story writing skills.

Dr Williams' attendance is a coup for the festival which can already boast the Liverpool poets Roger McGough and Brian Patten in its line-up as well as the veteran Welsh poet, Dannie Abse.

Thomas fans argue his legacy was largely ignored in Wales for years after his death by a literary establishment which was embarrassed by the man's chaotic lifestyle of alcohol and infidelity.

The contribution of the Archbishop of Canterbury is seen as his artistic support for the work to ensure that Thomas gets the recognition he deserves in his own country, say organisers.

David Woolley, literature officer at the Dylan Thomas Centre, secured the Dr Williams' visit.

He said: "He is obviously acknowledging that Dylan is an important part of the culture of Wales.

"The archbishop is here as a poet. He has said himself that he wants to be seen as a poet who has religious themes.

"And the same can be said for Dylan Thomas. Both in style and imagery Dylan's poetry is hugely influenced by the Bible and religious themes.

"Therefore, it's a quite appropriate really that someone who is the Archbishop of Canterbury but also write poetry should be at the festival about Dylan Thomas

"There is plenty of common ground there poetically."


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