AMERICA, AERONWY, AND ME / DYLAN THOMAS TRIBUTE TOUR
America, Aeronwy, and Me is a commemorative book of my tour with Aeronwy Thomas, daughter of Dylan Thomas, in 2008, when we embarked on the Dylan Thomas Tribute Tour of America for a busy six weeks of events. The tour involved a lot of travelling via planes and cars, waiting times at airports and leisure times, such as our day out together in Manhattan. The final event concluded with us being commissioned by Catrin Brace of the Welsh Government in New York to write the first-ever Dylan Thomas Walking Tour of Greenwich Village, New York, which is now available as a tourist-guide book, a smartphone app and a guided tour via New York Fun Tours.
The organiser of the tour was Stanley H. Barkan, a poet and my and Aeronwy’s American publisher (Cross-Cultural Communications, New York), in consultation with New York emeritus professor, poet and critic, Vince Clemente. Stan’s meticulous organising of the tour took him over two years and it meant Aeronwy and me travelling from New York to California, with several diversions, such as Colorado, Michigan, and Illinois.
The tour featured Aeronwy, answering questions about her father (and often about her mother, Caitlin), reading prose pieces about them, and reading his poems and a selection of her own poems, principally from her then new book, Burning Bridges (Cross-Cultural Communications). I read some of Dylan’s poems and lectured on the remarkable craftsmanship of his poems and his obsession with sound-texturing within his poems, including his use of Welsh devices (cynghanedd) in English. I also read a selection of my own poems, principally from The Lizard Catchers (Cross-Cultural Communications). We also performed excerpts from her father’s famous “A Play for Voices”, Under Milk Wood. Trefor Ellis, Aeronwy’s husband, joined us for two weeks on the East Coast and contributed his wonderful singing voice to our events. His rendition of the “Reverend Eli Jenkins’ Morning Prayer” was particularly loved by our audiences.
The book charts our journey from the night before we flew to JFK International Airport, New York, when I stayed at Aeronwy’s and Trefor’s home, to our return to the UK. My recollections cover our many events, including such venues as the Walt Whitman Birthplace, Long Island; the CUNY Graduate Center, New York; The National Arts Club, New York; The Poetry Centre, Passaic County Community College, New Jersey; Wellesley College, Massachusetts; the historic The Grolier Poetry Book Shop, Boston; Houghton Library, Harvard University, Boston; the Iowa International Writing Workshop, University of Iowa, Iowa; University of Colorado at Boulder, Colorado; and the Monterey Peninsula College, California.
The book also offers contributions from some of our kind and generous hosts, including Catrin Brace; Maria Mazziotti Gillan, a renowned American poet and Founder/Executive Director of the Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College; Kristine Doll, translator and professor at Salem State University; Paul M. Levitt, a novelist and professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder; and John Dotson, an American writer, sculptor, performer, producer and president of the Monterey Friends of CG Jung. The texts throughout the book are accompanied by a fine selection of photographs, which capture some of our leisure moments as well as our formal events; and there is a Poems Supplement of work by Aeronwy, Stan and me.
Aeronwy signed my copy of her book, Burning Bridges, for which I wrote the Introduction, “to my comrade”. As her “comrade”, it was such a pleasure putting this book together and being able to launch it in America and in Wales in memory of her.
To conclude, this is from a forthcoming review of the book by Jessica Newport, reviewer and writer, which will be published in the prestigious American literary journal, Paterson Literary Review, in February 2020:
“It is clear that Peter and Aeronwy touched all they met along the way and left a lasting effect, a permanent mark upon their lives if you will. I suspect that the feeling was mutual. Indeed, Peter shares that the “memories will remain with me forever”. Peter and Aeronwy brought Dylan Thomas to a new audience and for those who had already encountered him they not only enriched his poetry through their readings but brought their own powerful poetry forward also, a perfect marrying of the past and the present. . . I cannot recommend this book enough; it will leave one feeling a renewed determination to follow one’s own passions just as Peter and Aeronwy did when they stepped on that first plane to America”.
Peter Thabit Jones
End: I had, with my publisher Stan, intended the book to come out in 2018, the tenth anniversary of the tour. The delay, though, did mean it coincided with the tenth anniversary of Aeronwy’s passing. Thus the book, for us, seems a fitting celebration of her sheer devotion and diligent and energetic work when it came to her father’s iconic legacy.
America, Aeronwy, and Me / Dylan Thomas Tribute Tour is published by Cross-Cultural Communications, USA, and The Seventh Quarry Press, Wales Price: £10/$15