We are delighted to welcome a guest blog from poet Peter Thabit Jones talking about his new book, Under The Raging Moon (One Night with Dylan Thomas in Greenwich Village, New York)

W. B. Yeats, of course, said “the poet never speaks directly as to someone at the breakfast table, there is always a phantasmagoria”. I have aimed for the man at the breakfast table, or in Dylan’s case at tables in four Greenwich Village bars, where he does speak directly to those he meets.

I have always been interested in the ‘off stage’/’off page’ aspect of famous poets (I am an avid reader of biographies about poets), in particular a poet like Dylan.  Touring America with Aeronwy in 2008, we experienced the daytime and nighttime buzz of being ‘on stage’ one minute and then the coming down to a much needed meal in a bar or restaurant, or the preparation for our travelling to another state the next day.

A poet is always ‘on call’ for the next poem, throughout the day and night, but there is also that day-to-day ‘ordinariness’ of life, which Dylan voices over and over in his letters, from those early letters to Pamela Hansford Johnson to his final letters before his death.

So I wanted to explore the other side of the ‘Nogood Boyo’ entertaining Dylan, though I have retained his mischievous humour and his vocal acrobatic wordplay.  I wanted to show more of the man who chatted away with ordinary folk in the Browns Hotel and in the bars of America.

When I met the late David Slivka, sculptor with Ibram Lassaw of Dylan’s death mask, at his art studio in Hell’s Kitchen, during my first visit to New York City in 1997, to do some poetry readings, he told me Dylan would be happy with a quiet beer until the ‘hangers-on’ turned up. Caitlin, of course, intimated that there was more than one Dylan.

So this imagined evening with Dylan Thomas, unwell and who becomes somewhat drunk as the hours pass in his visits to four pubs in Greenwich Village, New York, aims to show the man behind the legend when he is among non-literary people: people unknown to him, apart from two bar people and two hangers-on. Always in the back of my mind were some comments by his Kardhomah friends, such as Vernon Watkins and Alfred Janes, that Dylan could be ‘ordinary’ with the right people. I have aimed for that ‘ordinariness’, the ability to empathise with others, in a genius of a man. I also wanted to show at certain moments Dylan’s love for his wife Caitlin and his children, Llewellyn, Aeronwy and Colm.

I deliberately did not name three of the Village bars, as I wanted that feeling he could well have met people he did not know. The last bar he visits is the White Horse Tavern, now synonymous with Dylan. His time with my chosen characters brings out certain themes: fatherhood, childhood, money, love and death. They were some of the themes that permeated his works and his letters.

So this is a ‘synopsis’ of my drama: October, 1953. Dylan Thomas, unwell and harassed by personal problems, is on his fourth and fatal visit to America, organised by John Malcolm Brinnin, Director at the YM & YWHA Poetry Center in New York.

October 25th. Dylan, accompanied by Liz Reitell, Brinnin’s assistant, with whom he started an affair on his third visit, is in a taxi on the way to Greenwich Village. Since his arrival in the city, she has been trying to keep him away from his ‘hangers-on’ and to focus him on the upcoming two performances of his Under Milk Wood at the Kaufmann Auditorium. Unhappy and upset by his general behaviour, she stops the taxi near her apartment and abandons him to do whatever he pleases.

In this imagined scenario, he stops at some bars where he mainly meets people unknown to him. The final bar is the White Horse Tavern, his favourite drinking place in the Village.

Note: In the early hours of 3rd November, Dylan would leave the Chelsea Hotel and an upset Liz. His last-ever drinking spree would lead to him being rushed to St Vincent’s Hospital on November 5th, where he would go into a coma and die on November 9th.

I was particularly pleased that David Higham Associates, representatives of the Dylan Thomas Trust, and New Directions (USA) gave me permission to use some lines from the works of Dylan Thomas; and that renowned Swansea artist Jeffrey Phillips allowed me to use his wonderful artwork for the front cover.

Lastly, the book version is a drama for the stage but I also wrote a version for radio. It felt right to do so when one thinks of Dylan’s wonderful and superb works for radio.

Peter Thabit Jones

UNDER THE RAGING MOON (One Night with Dylan Thomas in Greenwich Village, New York). A Drama in Four Acts.

Co-published by Cross-Cultural Communications, USA, and The Seventh Quarry Press, Wales.
Front cover artwork by Swansea artist Jeffrey Phillips.

Price: £6.99/$15

Available from:

Author: Peter Thabit Jones – Small Press Distribution https://www.spdbooks.org

UK and Europe: