Is Our Ongoing Love Affair with Youth Going to Last Forever? #DylanThomas

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Photograph by Nora Summers | DYLANS BOOKSTORE COLLECTION

Photograph by Nora Summers | DYLANS BOOKSTORE COLLECTION

By Lleucu Siencyn

“Why do we still revere youth in popular culture?” says Lleucu Siencyn.

Dylan Thomas died at the tender age of 39.

‘I hope I die before I get old,’ sang Roger Daltrey of The Who when he was an angry 21 year old. I bet that he’s changed his mind now that he’s a mellow, 69-year-old rocker.

Popular culture, however, still reveres youth above all. It was announced this week that 28-year-old Eleanor Catton from New Zealand won the Man Booker Prize—the youngest person ever to do so (and with the longest book as well: The Luminaries is 832 pages).

It appears that youth is now taking over high-brow culture as well.

To win the Booker at 28 ought to make anyone over that age feel vastly inadequate.

How can so many artists achieve so much before they reach their third decade? Why aren’t they watching box-sets, playing with their Xboxes, and falling out of taxis at 2 a.m.?

Orson Welles won an Oscar for Citizen Kane, which he co-wrote, produced, directed and starred in when he was just 26 years old.

Our own superstar poet, Dylan Thomas, wrote many of his famous poems, including “And Death Shall Have No Dominion” when he was still a teenager.

He published his collection of short stories, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog — parodying Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man — when he was 26.

Dylan Thomas died 60 years ago this year in New York, when he was only 39.

He really did die before he got old, tragically — at the top of his game — and probably would have carried on being a remarkable writer for decades.

Many artists peak too soon, but many more continue to produce incredible work throughout their lives. A contemporary of Dylan Thomas, RS Thomas — whose centenary we celebrate this year — wrote some of his best work later in life.

Reading RS Thomas’ poetry requires work and concentration, but the rewards are truly worthwhile. He is one of the greatest love poets, nature poets—and a religious poet full of doubt.

This week we were very excited to announce that the prestigious Guardian Masterclasses are coming to Ty Newydd for the first time.

Held between November 11 and 15, the Masterclass is inspired by RS Thomas and combines writing and reading.

RS Thomas was once asked: “How do you begin to write a poem?”

He replied, “I read. Then I take a sheet of paper and a pen, to see what words will do.”

This course is a chance to find inspiration in the words and landscape of the late RS Thomas, and to write new work under his presiding genius, and the guidance of National Poet of Wales, Gillian Clarke and Professor Damian Walford Davies.

Sometimes, things just get better with age. I always preferred the messy, rowdy, crazy love-affair between the middle-aged Anthony and Cleopatra to the teenage courtship of those star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet.

As Enobarbus said of Cleopatra: “Age cannot wither her, not custom stale her infinite variety.”

These older lovers had choices, and acted on them, not always wisely. But — in the end — they achieved “immortal longings”.

So, sorry Roger Daltrey, nice song and all that, but you’re wrong. Growing old is the new going out, and let’s all do it disgracefully.

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