Looking forward to Dylan Day 2017

dylan thomas paintingInternational Dylan Thomas Day (aka #DylanDay) takes place on 14th May each year, and it’s a fantastic excuse for celebrating the work of this renowned Welsh poet. The idea is that people everywhere (you don’t have to be in Wales) can organise their very own Dylan Thomas themed event, small or large. Last year there were 50 events all across the UK, as well as in New York, Milan, Perth, Sydney and elsewhere…

I attended two events in Cardiff’s Central Library. The first of these was a poetry workshop, run by local writer Renn Hubbuck-Melly. We had a go at using the ‘cut-up’ technique, a writing practice which dates back to the Dadaist movement of the 1920s. We each experimented with different methods, such as folding and merging two poems together, or picking random phrases out of a hat. The results were surreal and intriguing.

Aneirin Karadog performing at a Dylan Day event in 2016

Aneirin Karadog

This was followed by the well-attended Megaverse spoken word event, hosted by Will Ford. Aneirin Karadog began by reading some of his Dylan Thomas inspired poems, mainly in Welsh. Not being a Welsh speaker, I was only able to grasp a few key words, but I really enjoyed his Welsh hip-hop style performance, using a wooden staff to beat the rhythm out. The people on the floor below must have wondered what on earth was going on!

The highlight of the afternoon was a powerful performance of Dylan’s Great Poem, a masterpiece of 100 lines on the theme of ‘hands’, recited by the editors, clare e potter and Rufus Mufasa. The poem was a compilation of lines and phrases written by 7-25 year olds from around the world. It was rhythmic, bilingual and full of compelling imagery:

“Our hands our legacy, our ancestry.
With these weighted hands of mine I shall write a symphony,”

Rufus Mufasa and clare e potter

Rufus Mufasa and clare e potter reciting ‘Dylan’s Great Poem’

Following this, a number of local poets read work which they’d written specially for Dylan Day, from the serious to the downright irreverent. These included an amusing poem entitled If Dylan met Frankie on the way to Hollywood by Mark Curtis, the tragic Ballad of Bob Thomas by Dave Daggers, a funny story of what could go wrong when assuming the identity ‘Thomas Dylan’ in New York, from Gareth Davies, and a hilarious Batman inspired poem from Will Ford.

There was an open mic section, which included a few of the results from the poetry workshop. I read my own Dylan Thomas creation (a kind of merging of two of his poems) and a couple of others also read poems fresh from the workshop.

Throughout the event, the artist Pauline Williams was busy sketching. I was sitting directly behind her – a unique opportunity to see an artist in action. Her colourful painting of Dylan Thomas sat on an easel at the front of the room. He watched the entire proceedings, an expression of mild surprise on his face, which made me wonder – what would he have thought of all this?

See below: a rap by Baba Brinkman, and a sand art installation, both commissioned for Dylan Day 2016… (then scroll down for details of how you can get involved this year)…

Dylan Day is co-ordinated by the poet Mab Jones, on behalf of Literature Wales, with funding from the Welsh Government. Anyone can organise an event, and it can be as random as you like, so long as it’s related to Dylan Thomas in some way. I asked Mab about what she’s looking forward to this year:

“I’m really excited to be coordinating the Day again, and look forward to hearing from lots of people about possibilities. Last year the Day included events over the course of the whole month. On the Day itself, we began with an amazing sand art installation on the beach at New Quay, and ended with someone reciting poetry at tens of thousands of feet up in an aeroplane! It literally went from earth to heaven, and I want to hear from anyone who wants to be a part of that magic.”

To find out more about Dylan Day, and how you can organise your own event, visit the Literature Wales website, or contact Mab on intdylanthomasday@gmail.com.