Dylan Thomas, Welsh poet (1914 -1953) was a prolific writer of not just poetry but also of plays, prose and movie scripts. While many of his poems were published in magazines and journals, Thomas also had collections of his poems and short stories published in book form. While during Thomas’s lifetime there were not many books of his work published, a great many have been since. The following books are some of his best and are sure to be enjoyed by readers of all ages, as they have been for many years both prior and since his early death at the age of 39.
18 Poems – Published in 1934, this collection of poems was released as a book due to Thomas winning the Poet’s Corner contest sponsored by the Sunday Referee. What makes this book noteworthy, in addition to featuring some of Thomas’s best poems at the time, is that Thomas was only 20 years of age when this book was released. Only 500 copies were released initially, with a second printing occurring in 1936. Included in the contents is one of his better known poems Light breaks where no sun shines.
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog – Published in 1940, this book features a collection of Thomas’s short stories. The stories were written over many years spanning his childhood through his teenage years, and into the short time he worked as a reporter for the South Wales Daily Post. Many of the autobiographical stories reveal Thomas’s humor as he tells of boyhood adventures, young love and the dealing of death at an early age. This collection is full of wonderful imagery and colorful characters.
A Child’s Christmas in Wales – Published in 1952, this story began as a piece written for radio. The story tells of a young child’s impressions of Christmas in Wales, and is full of the author’s nostalgic reminiscences of some of the Christmases he himself experienced while growing up in Swansea. This is one of Thomas’s more popular stories, having been read by millions, has been published several times and today most publications include illustrations.
The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas – Published in 1952, this book is a collection of poems that Thomas carefully selected himself to be best representative of his work. Three of his best known poems, Do Not Go Gently into the Good Night, And Death Shall Have No Dominion and Fern Hill are all included in this book. Many believe that this collection is the most definitive of Thomas’s work, with the book having been published many times since its initial publication.
The Map of Love – Published in 1939, this collection of some of Thomas’s poems and prose was not as well received as other of his works, but not because it was lacking in any way. Timing detracted greatly from its success as WWII was imminent, drawing focus away from the book’s release. The 16 poems included in this book are the same ones included in The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas, and the short stories are also published in Collected Stories.
Deaths and Entrances – Published in 1946, this book is yet another collection of poems by the famous Welsh poet, and proved to be hugely popular. An initial printing of only 3000 copies quickly sold out, with 3000 more copies being printed just one month later to meet demand, showing Thomas that his poetry was growing in popularity. Containing 25 poems, of particular note was the inclusion of Fern Hill, a poem that reflected many of Thomas’s happy childhood experiences while visiting his aunt’s farm. While Fern Hill told of happier times for Thomas, many of the other poems described some of the effects of WWII, including the contentious A Refusal to Mourn the Death, by Fire, of a Child in London, for which Thomas was accused of being heartless. Further analysis of the poem revealed that the opposite was true, and that Thomas was disheartened at the senseless deaths of so many people during the war, not just the little girl who was killed during a bombing raid on London.
For anyone who seeks an introduction to Dylan Thomas’s poems and prose, any one of the books mentioned above is a good choice.