By Kevin Powell
I first discovered the writings of Dylan Thomas as a young poet in 1990s New York City. I was a part of a scene of wordsmiths influenced by The Beat Generation, Black Arts Movement writers like Sonia Sanchez and Amiri Baraka, Harlem Renaissance poets like Langston Hughes, and Nuyorican writers like Miguel Algarin and Mikey Pinero. I learned of Thomas via my growing love of the music of Bob Dylan, that BD had in fact taken his name from the famous Welsh poet, essayist, and playwright. Through the years I would study Dylan Thomas’ work periodically, or stumble into it in various ways. But it was not until 2013 when a friend of mine who works for the British government asked me if I’d be interested in supporting the 100th birthday of Dylan Thomas in 2014 that I returned to a very close study of his life and work. I was blown away by what I had learned, what I had forgotten, including his very tragic death at the tender age of 39 in New York City in 1953. And between DT’s youthful writings and the mountain of work he created right up until his end, Thomas firmly established himself as one of the greatest writers of the English language. Indeed he was also one of the first writers to be a true multimedia star given his work with the BBC on the heels of World War 2. On my first visit to Wales in December 2013 I was fortunate to do a series of speeches and workshops on the connections between Dylan Thomas and America, between his times and our era today. On this visit I met his granddaughter Hannah Ellis, a very sweet and humble school teacher who never met DT, yet has the monumental task of carrying forth his legacy. In a series of email exchanges once back in America Hannah did this interview with me.