Sunday, October 27, 2013

Library Walk: Dylan Thomas

Born on this day in 1914, Dylan Thomas (1914–1953) is perhaps more famous in death than he was in life. In life the Welsh poet is best remembered for his A Child's Christmas in Wales. In death he is the "roistering, drunken and doomed poet" who famously drank himself to death in New York City.

As memorialized in his adopted New York, it is the second verse of In My Craft or Sullen Art that is enshrined on Library Walk. The poem first appeared in Deaths and Entrances published in 1946. In My Craft or Sullen Art expertly captures the process and motivation of the poet — or of any creative mind who creates not for material gain but for something more substantial — something from within.

In My Craft or Sullen Art

In my craft or sullen art  
Exercised in the still night  
When only the moon rages  
And the lovers lie abed
With all their griefs in their arms,
I labor by singing light  
Not for ambition or bread
Or the strut and trade of charms  
On the ivory stages
But for the common wages  
Of their most secret heart.

Not for the proud man apart  
From the raging moon I write  
On these spindrift pages  
Nor for the towering dead
With their nightingales and psalms  
But for the lovers, their arms  
Round the griefs of the ages,  
Who pay no praise or wages  
Nor heed my craft or art.

— Dylan Thomas

In 1996, the New York Public Library, the Grand Central Partnership and the New Yorker Magazine convened a panel of esteemed lovers of the written word and came up with a collection of quotations from the never-ending oeuvre of literature.

These quotes were cast in bronze by New York sculptor Gregg LeFevre and then laid out as sidewalk plaques on E 41st Street in 1998. In 2003, the stretch of E 41st Street from the New York Public Library entrance on Fifth Avenue to Park Avenue was renamed Library Way.

Whether it be a birth day, anniversary or publication date of a seminal work, the Bar None Group will revisit these 40+ quotations from time to time — quotations that inspire one to write, read, explore and embrace literature. We last visited W.B. Yeats.

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