Dylan Thomas
October 7, 2005 8:17 AM   Subscribe

Llareggub! Dylan Thomas reading Dylan Thomas and host of others (Shakespeare, Milton, Yeats, Auden, Hardy, and more). 11 volumes of mp3s on Salon, reached after watching a Salon premium ad. [via boingboing]
posted by carter (12 comments total)
I was going to post this, but I was too busy listening! Direct links to "Fern Hill," and "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night" (.mp3s).
posted by steef at 10:07 AM on October 7, 2005

Many Welsh place names start with "Llan-," which means 'church'; for instance, Llandaff means 'church by the [river] Taff.' Llareggub, the fictional setting for Under Milk Wood, sounds the same, but is in fact "bugger all" spelt backwards ...

Thanks for the direct links, steef! Makes it easier for dial-up folks.
posted by carter at 10:18 AM on October 7, 2005

How many of you like that reading of "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night?"

I didn't. Part of it is I really don't like that poem, I'm sure.

Thomas has a great speaking voice. But his tone and intonation are, to me, the kind of thing I'd pick if I wanted to make fun of a stereotypical poet from England or New England, complete with tweed jacket, pipe, goatee and round glasses. The words that came to my mind after listening were: pompous, silly, overwrought, stilted, affected.

I love poetry, but I often have this problem. I have the book Poetry Speaks, which has selections from 40 some odd poets, with 3 audio CDs to accompany it. It is a great book, but I find myself hating the way some of the poets speak (Yeats and Eliot come to mind. Plath is good, but not as good at reading her stuff as Paltrow was in the movie about her).

So is it just me?

(Thanks for the FPP, by the way, there is never enough poetry on MeFi).
posted by teece at 10:48 AM on October 7, 2005

Thomas is such a National Treasure in Wales, partly *because* of that voice, that I never thought to think about it critically. Maybe it's an example of an earlier era of public speaking; and I'm speculating that the recording technologies of fifty years ago required very precise diction and projection, in order for the recording to be clear.
posted by carter at 11:26 AM on October 7, 2005

teece, I've often felt the same thing about recordings of poets reading their own work (well, at least poets from that Modernist era). Especially Eliot - he sounds so sententious. Even Wallace Stevens, whom I adore, sounds not at all like I imagine him sounding in my head (and to be frank, fairly silly).

On the other hand, Robert Frost's voice sounds very much like I would expect it to--although I was surprised at first by the degree to which it resembles William Burroughs's.

I've got that same CD set, and some of the more recent poets seem like incredibly good readers to me, especially James Tate reading that poem about his father.

It's interesting to trace how our idea of what read poetry should sound like has evolved over the years. Thomas was famous for his melodious voice in his day, but I also find it too proclamatory for my taste. Maybe Ginsberg and the Beats are the missing link? Certainly something changed in the culture of spoken poetry between Thomas and the present day.
posted by whir at 1:11 PM on October 7, 2005

I've been told that Thomas' sonorous voice gave the recording technicians fits because the equipment of the time was poorly suited for reproducing his speech. I wouldn't be surprised if he was asked to speak in a certain manner, as carter suggests. This FPP caused me to dig around and find my "spoken word" mp3 folder after months of neglect. Thanks carter.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 1:31 PM on October 7, 2005

I have an LP of Dylan Thomas reading "Do not go gentle..." and "A Child's Christmas in Wales" among others. Excellent stuff. I'll have to give it another spin tonight.
posted by me3dia at 2:50 PM on October 7, 2005

Hmm... why not have Bob Dylan read Dylan Thomas?
Then you can have Dylan Thomas read Thomas Frank.
Then you can have Thomas Frank read Frank Herbert.
Then Frank Herbert can read the works of Nobel Prize-winning economist Herbert Simon.
Then Herbert Simon could read Simon Wiesenthal.

After that, I got nothin' Anyhow, it's like a more cerebral, multi-layered version of the "Namesakes" series David St. Hubbins subscribed to in This Is Spinal Tap. ("They've got this fellow called Dr. J. reading the Legend of Sleepy Hollow.") The only problem is most of these guys are dead. Minor details...
posted by jonp72 at 3:00 PM on October 7, 2005

Dylan Thomas and Harold Pinter both on the front page of mefi in one day - cool! Thanks carter.
posted by madamjujujive at 3:11 PM on October 7, 2005

This may not be entirely relevant to the discussion of Thomas' speaking voice, but maybe it can provide some perspective:

Track 6 on disc 5, "Chard Whitlow," was written by Henry Reed as a lampoon of T.S. Eliot. Reed won a parody contest with it in 1941.

Thomas recites it while impersonating Eliot. The poem is funny, but the audience is laughing because even they found Eliot to be 'pompous, silly, overwrought, stilted' and 'affected.'
posted by steef at 3:12 PM on October 7, 2005

Dylan isn't quite as universally loved in the land of his fathers as the tourist board would have you believe. I'm fond of him and all, but the Voice is a bit too Capital Lettered for my taste. R.S. is the Thomas for me.
posted by ceiriog at 4:33 PM on October 7, 2005

I discovered "A Child's Christmas in Wales" many years ago in Abilene, Texas. Our cable system carried a few radio stations including Chicago's WFMT, which always played this story (about 20 minutes long) on Christmas Eve or Day.

The other great thing on WFMT was a Saturday night program called "The Midnight Special", which played an astonishing variety of music and spoken word stuff. (I see now that TMS is still on, and WFMT is carried on XM, I think.)

I wish cable systems still carried FM stations--haven't seen that happen in over 10 years now. And don't bother recommending streaming over the internet--the fidelity pales in comparison.
posted by neuron at 5:57 PM on October 7, 2005

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