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Posts Tagged ‘Dylan Thomas’

Faulkner’s Cocktail of Choice

December 31, 2013 | by


In honor of the new year, we are bringing you some of your favorite posts from 2013. Happy holidays!

When I first started working at Kings County Distillery, in the summer of 2010, I was delighted to find the job provided ample time to read. Whiskey making has its own peculiar rhythm. Each batch begins in a flurry, as one juggles a series of tasks like a line cook, but ends in a hush, with little to do but watch the languorous drip of the stills.

This was in the wobbly-legged days of the company’s infancy, before we moved into the grand old brick paymaster building in the Brooklyn Navy Yards. Back then we were based out of a studio space on Meadow Street with wooden floors and five-gallon steel pot stills that had to be emptied, scaldingly, by hand. (This, as our former downstairs neighbors can attest, would prove an unfortunate combination of circumstances.) During that first summer, we worked singly, in nine-hour shifts, so there was a lot of alone time. So, unless one wanted to lose one’s goddamn mind in that little room, one read. Read More »


What We’re Loving: Racetrack Murals, Lovers, A Child’s Christmas in Wales

December 20, 2013 | by


One of my favorite novels of the past few years is Andrés Neuman’s Traveler of the Century, an ambitious “total novel” that is many things: a love story, a murder mystery, and, most of all, a novel of ideas. While his latest, Talking to Ourselves, is much more brief and intimate, it is no less moving and intelligent. And while Traveller was set in an imaginary place, Talking to Ourselves is grounded in our reality, alternating between the voices of a father, mother, and son as they all deal with the father’s illness. None of them dares to express the complete the truth to the other two; instead, it’s up to us to put the pieces together. As the mother, Elena, expresses near the end, “Let’s be honest. All honesty is a little posthumous.” —Justin Alvarez

When I last left America, an airport official confiscated Dos Passos’s USA trilogy to reduce my hand-luggage; I learnt my lesson and flew back in bearing only one light paperback, Open City by Teju Cole. As I read it over three months, its narrator, Julius, walked through the same streets of New York (then Brussels and back to New York) in a headspace James Wood astutely calls “productive alienation,” nourishing common encounters on the street with memories (of his father’s funeral, Nigeria, schoolmates illnesses, the first illicit consumption of a pornographic magazine or a Coca Cola). His narrative is besieged by loss, and calibrated, in the end, to omit rather than include. Cole’s novel is paradoxical, “turned in on itself” as Manhattan itself is: “water was a kind of embarrassing secret, the unloved daughter, neglected, while the parks were doted on, fussed over, overused.” —Lucie Elven

“Years and years and years ago, when I was a boy, when there were wolves in Wales, and birds the color of red-flannel petticoats whisked past the harp-shaped hills, when we sang and wallowed all night and day in caves that smelt like Sunday afternoons in damp front farmhouse parlors, and we chased, with the jawbones of deacons, the English and the bears, before the motor car, before the wheel, before the duchess-faced horse when we rode the daft and happy hills bareback, it snowed and it snowed.” If one story conjures the youthful enchantment of tossing snowballs at neighborhood cats and building snowmen, of chimneys emitting plumes of smoke, surely it must be Dylan Thomas’s A Child’s Christmas in Wales. Published in a slim blue volume by New Directions, this comic tale of family and friends of Christmas past is sure to delight; I joyfully revisit Thomas’s word-drunk reverie each year. —Adam Winters

This week I’ve been reading the Barbara Bray translation of Marguerite Duras’s L’amant (The Lover). On more than one occasion I found myself reading it aloud, not just to hear the pleasant tensions of translation, but to also listen to the heartache of Duras’s language. Against the backdrop of prewar Indochina, Duras paints the most tempestuous of love affairs. Yet amidst the novel’s unabated despair—the affaire de coeur, the family torn asunder by poverty, the mother’s madness, the young girl’s insatiable desire for another young girl’s body—shines a beacon of hope: the narrator’s inexorable determination to become a writer. “I’m still part of the family, it’s there I live to the exclusion of everywhere else. It’s in its aridity, it’s terrible harshness, its malignancy, that I’m most deeply sure of myself, at the heart of my essential certainty, the certainty that later on I’ll be a writer.” To second Maxine Hong Kingston’s remarks in her Introduction to the novel, “The Lover is a story about a girl and a woman becoming an artist.” —Caitlin Youngquist

Sportswriter Joe Palmer once warned that those of us who’ve spent time at the races may develop an “unreasonable fondness for certain places,” and if you’ve ever been to Aqueduct—the neon lights, the cinderblock walls, the geriatric thugs crowding the parimutuel windows—no doubt you’re familiar with the sentiment. A certain charm, one might say, if one were drunk on Wild Turkey—and yet the kids have not caught on, or at least not yet. The New York Racing Association recently commissioned thirteen street artists to liven up those cinderblock walls, resulting in several murals diverse in style, size and subject matter (including portraiture based on archival photos supplied by the NYRA). On a recent afternoon the grizzled throngs were still in evidence, though I also spied a few fresh-faced twenty-somethings looking only slightly ill at ease. Aqueduct’s current meet runs through December 31. —Abby Gibbon



Dylan Thomas: Under Milk Wood

May 15, 2013 | by


Via the 92nd Street Y, the only known recorded performance of Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood, which Thomas premiered at the Y in 1953.



Literary Vinyl

February 28, 2013 | by

6a00d83451da9669e2017c37089525970b-400wiThis is a niche we can get behind: so-called literary vinyl, defined by the Times Literary Supplement blog as “spoken word LPs, singles, and those oddly appealing 10-inch discs.” Collector Greg Gatenby is selling off his 1,700-strong collection for $80,000. But for those of us who grew up listening to 78s of A Child’s Christmas in Wales and Bread and Jam for Frances, the memories are, as the credit-card commercials would say, priceless.



Dylan Thomas’s “I Have Longed to Move Away”

November 12, 2012 | by

Liars and lovers often find themselves to be bedfellows. It seems to follow that government officials will forever have to publicly disentangle the lies they tell about their lovers. But a scandal, after all, means evidence or admission, the end of the lie. Only the person who kept it secret so long knows the real terror of the birth and life of the lie, and perhaps it is poetry, rather than the news cycle, that is sensitive enough to trace a portrait of such a slippery subject.

After hearing about the resignation of David Petraeus on Friday, I immediately turned to the Dylan Thomas poem “I Have Longed to Move Away.” I first read it, by chance, when I was harboring a huge lie myself, one that had seemed to follow me into the pages of an innocuous-looking poetry book on a friend’s shelf, opened at random. From the first line, the poem not only captures the feeling one gets from living the worst lies; it seduces liars themselves. Like the speaker, I longed in that moment to move away to some foreign place, at least on the page, but once I’d begun the journey, I was led back where I’d come from: there was my lie, staring me down again in the next line. The steady meter interrupts on the unexpected and sinister “hissing,” then come the strong two beats of that unavoidable “spent lie” which is equated to a “continual cry.” It is not just a lie; it has been assigned a heavy weight and value by meter, rhyme, and meaning.

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In Which Richard Burton Discusses Poetry

October 16, 2012 | by

Friday, October 20, Capo Caccia

On Sunday morning I read poetry at the Union with Wystan Auden. He read a great deal of his own poetry including his poems to Coghill and MacNeice. Both very fine conversation pieces I thought but read in that peculiar sing-song tonelessness colourless way that most poets have. I remember Yeats and Eliot and MacLeish, who read their most evocative poems with such monotony as to stun the brain. Only Dylan could read his own stuff. Auden has a remarkable face and an equally remarkable intelligence but I fancy, though his poetry like all true poetry is all embracingly and astringently universal, his private conceit is monumental. The standing ovation I got with the ‘Boast of Dai’ of D. Jones In Parenthesis left a look on his seamed face, riven with a ghastly smile, that was compact of surprise, malice and envy. Afterwards he said to me ‘How can you, where did you, how did you learn to speak with a Cockney accent?’ In the whole piece of some 300 lines only about 5 are in Cockney. He is not a nice man but then only one poet have I ever met was—Archie Macleish. Dylan was uncomfortable unless he was semi-drunk and ‘on.’ MacNeice was no longer a poet when I got to know him and was permanently drunk. Eliot was clerically cut with a vengeance. The only nice poets I’ve ever met were bad poets and a bad poet is not a poet at all—ergo I’ve never met a nice poet. That may include Macleish. For instance R. S. Thomas is a true minor poet but I’d rather share my journey to the other life with somebody more congenial. I think the last tight smile that he allowed to grimace his features was at the age of six when he realized with delight that death was inevitable. He has consigned his wife to hell for a long time. She will recognize it when she goes there.

From The Richard Burton Diaries, edited by Chris Williams, Yale University Press, 2012. Copyright © 2012 Swansea University.