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Last Updated: Saturday, 8 November, 2003, 16:41 GMT
Wreath-laying marks poet's death
By Nick Dermody
BBC News Online Wales

Dylan Thomas
A reading of some of Thomas' work will be held at Westminster Abbey
The 50th anniversary of the death of Wales' most famous poet, Dylan Thomas, has been marked with a wreath-laying ceremony at Westminster Abbey.

The memorial event, at Poets' Corner, noted the half century since the tragic, drink-fuelled passing of the man who many now view as the second-best writer in the English language.

Assembly Culture Minister Alun Pugh, one of the guests at the ceremony, said Thomas had become a "true cultural icon" for Wales.

Mr Pugh said: "Wales can be truly proud of Dylan Thomas and. He put Wales on the world map.
We should celebrate his links with Wales and his place in Welsh cultural history
Culture Minister Alun Pugh

"His poetry has spoken to and touched generations of people and he remains popular 50 years after his death.

"His depiction of Wales may not always have been complimentary but the thousands of visitors who visit the boat house, and his other old haunts in Laugharne and Swansea, highlight why we should celebrate his links with Wales and his place in Welsh cultural history.

The guests at the abbey event, which includes readings of his work, are headed by Thomas' daughter Aeronwy and son Colum.

The London ceremony came as a two-week festival marking the writer's life and works - which included a poetry reading by the Archbishop of Canterbury - is drawing to a close in his native Swansea.

Aeronwy Thomas outside the Dylan Thomas Centre in Swansea
Daughter Aeronwy: Saw Swansea's festival in honour of her father

Aeronwy Thomas is the family member most active in preserving and promoting her father's work, which extends across poetry, short stories and writing for film and radio.

In his latter years, Thomas also carved out a new career in teaching and conducted four lecture tours of America.

The final tour led to his death in New York in 1953 from alcohol poisoning after yet another mammoth drinking bout.

Aeronwy Thomas was present throughout Swansea's Dylan Thomas Festival which drew visitors from Australia, the United States and Japan.

People came to hear guests like the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, and the former Beatles producer, Sir George Martin, speak about the power and impact of Thomas' writing.

She told BBC News Online the 2003 festival was the best yet that the city had staged in honour of its literary son.

Children and young people

"Rowan Williams, who for an hour read poetry, which is quite an undertaking, was very worthwhile. He was imaginative as well as religious," she said.

"He described himself as 'Mr 57b' among Swansea poets. I thought he was better than that."

She said the festival should continue its work with children and young people.

"I think this is where it has got to go.

"The exhibitions and interpretations by local artists and children, under the influence of the festival, is a good trend.

"My father's popularity will wax and wane as these things do.

"If the work has its own life, it will survive the bad times until he is popular again."

She said her first memory of her father's work was hearing him in the writing shed, when he was reading out loud the lines he was writing for Under Milkwood.




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