Saint David and the Dylan Thomas Walking Tour

Dylan Thomas Walking Tour Greenwich Village

On the final night of February, 2014, as New Yorkers prepared for March, a month most connected to spring and St. Patrick, I rode the elevator to the twentieth floor of the Yale Club. In the ballroom that overlooked Grand Central Station, a crowd had congregated to celebrate another patron saint: Wales’s St. David. Even though the gathering had been hosted to remember St. David, most of the attendees focused their talk on a second famed Welshman–the poet Dylan Thomas.

 

This year marks the centennial of Thomas’s birth. While the poet’s home country is doing much to recognize their lyrical son, New York City, where Thomas had often visited and where he eventually died, is the second best place to better know the poet.

 

Among the hundred-plus people attending the St. David’s Day Dinner were Thomas’s granddaughter, Hannah Ellis, the leader of the Welsh government, First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones, and the former Harpist Royal to the Prince of Wales, Claire Jones. In both English and Welsh the somber poet was memorialized by his granddaughter, and Jones–the harpist–paid tribute to the lyricist with a performance from her new suite entitled Dylan.

 

Even during the auction for charity, everything bid upon was a secret ode to Thomas.

 

The man to my right, a Welsh banker living in Manhattan, challenged a foursome of ladies who were attempting to win a day with the Welsh actor Matthew Rhys. “My wife loves him,” the banker confessed. As soon as the bid reached $1,800, he bowed out and changed his tone: “My wife would kill me if she knew.” He wasn’t sure, however, if she would kill him for bidding too much or for not bidding enough. Either way, she would not break bread with the actor who had played Dylan Thomas in The Edge of Love. Then four bottles of Welsh Whiskey sold. The selling point, however, was not the spirit itself, but the face of the spirited poet emblazoned on the side.

 

Besides the holiday, the big announcement that had attracted these impressive citizens from Wales to our side of the Pond was the launch of a new Smartphone app that complements the previously established Dylan Thomas Walking Tour of Greenwich Village, which had been created five years earlier by Thomas’s daughter and the poet Peter Thabit Jones. This technological component offers lovers of poetry and New York the opportunity to take a self-guided tour of the haunts that Thomas had famously or haplessly been connected to.

 

Beginning with the Church of St. Luke’s, where the poet was first memorialized in 1953, and ending with his preferred watering hole, The White Horse Tavern, which still pays tribute to the man who contributed much to the bar’s past and the English-speaking world, the tour features Thomas’s other favorite pubs, a theater that hosted his readings, e.e. cumming’s residence (where the two poets had fraternized), and the now defunct hospital where Thomas had died.

 

But what lives on in this walking tour is a sliver of New York history that the visiting Welsh poet was instrumental in shaping.

 

Want to join me on the Dylan Thomas Walking Tour ?

 

I’m planning on taking this tour in the near future. So if anyone is a fan of Dylan Thomas or just enjoys a pint in the West Village send me a message or leave a comment below to join me on this Day of Dylan.

 

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Posted on by Noah Lederman in New York, Or Bust

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