Loving Language: Reflections on Dylan Thomas, 19

Maritime Quarter: Swansea. A statue of Dylan T...

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Last night I went to a one-show called Dylan Thomas, 19. As expected I was washed away in  a torrent of language that brought with it the eerie echoes of wind blowing over the ocean and the earthen clump of humans plodding their way through life.

The performance was elegant and challenging.  I will not claim I understood every word, but I think that is impossible unless you’ve read his work several times before watching and hearing. But that is what is so amazing about Dylan Thomas. His use of language takes twists and turns so that meaning becomes malleable, while at the same time he creates word pictures so beautiful and yet grounded in the earth that you feel and smell the rain and earth surrounding you.

I had my first in-depth immersion in Dylan Thomas a couple of years ago when I directed a staged reading of Under Milkwood for Durango Public Library. The challenge of creating an entire village of people out of a community cast of volunteer actors was a challenge in itself, but first I had to work through the wonder that is Dylan Thomas’ work. Each page is filled with honest and bawdy reflections on the state of human kind, including every fart and twitch that grounds us in the very dirt that our intellect tries to carry us from.

Watching the show last night, my mind began to wander, not because of the performance but because of the challenge of Thomas’ words. I wanted to surround myself in the sounds and the imagery. I wanted to envelope them into my body so that I could later encourage them to spill out onto a page, taking on new form, new meaning, and new life. No, I’m not comparing myself to Dylan Thomas, I am wishing that I had his power of observation and language. I also envied him the ability to say: screw the world, I’m going to pursue my passion whether I get paid or not, whether I eat or not, whether the world approves or not. Now that is not a direct quote or anything, but his words said that to me. He relished language over love and popularity, land over people and politeness. And he created himself as something wondrous.

I want to live in a land of language like that. I don’t want to give up the world, but I want to become lost in words when I am writing. Even more so, I would love to bring others into those words as well, and take them into a journey of sight, sound, and sighs created through language.

Ah, I wish.

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