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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 October, 2004, 06:08 GMT 07:08 UK
60,000 Dylan book prize launches
Dylan Thomas
It is hoped that writers from across the world will compete
One of the world's biggest literary prizes has been launched in Swansea and New York.

The 60,000 Swansea Dylan Thomas Prize will be awarded to the best book published in English anywhere in the world by an author under 30.

The prize, unveiled on the 90th anniversary of the Swansea poet's birth, is open to writers of novels, poetry, plays and travel books.

Swansea-born actor Catherine Zeta Jones will be its international ambassador.

Two venues over 3,000 miles apart - Swansea's Dylan Thomas Centre and New York's Algonquin Hotel - hosted launches on the same day.

The prize will be awarded every other year, alternating with Wales' Artes Mundi visual arts prize, awarded for the first time this spring, making Wales one of the world's most significant countries for arts awards.

Dylan Thomas is forever connected to New York
Ben Marcus, professor
Ben Marcus, associate professor at New York's' Columbia University, is one of the judges.

He said: "Dylan Thomas is forever connected to New York.

"I think he put New York poetry on the map and also got into some legendary rows downtown at the White Horse Tavern.

"It's really hard to walk around Greenwich Village without being reminded of his legacy."

Iwan Davies, head of culture and tourism at Swansea council, is pleased there is an international aspect to the prize.

I think the estate of Dylan Thomas still brings in more money than any other published poet
Peter Stead

"I think that is one of the important factors of why the county is so keen to support the prize.

"It's not just an introspective view that we're taking in promoting this prize really.

"It's to promote the international language of literature but in doing so reflecting on Swansea and Wales as a centre of literary excellence."

Cultural critic Peter Stead, who is from Swansea, came up with the idea after a trip to Italy.

He discovered a town called Viareggio had introduced a fiction prize, and invited the six short listed authors to come to the town to read their work.

That prize is now one of the biggest in Italy.

Mr Stead said of his idea: "It is celebrating one of the most successful international poets. I think the estate of Dylan Thomas still brings in more money than any other published poet.

"He is truly an international poet."

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