Dylan Thomas via Kenneth Rexroth? Dylan Thomas via Allen? Dylan Thomas via Bob Dylan? Whichever way it went, Dylan Thomas influenced Beat. Here’s Allen’s account, “Late April 1952” (he was 26 years old!), from Journals, Early Fifties, Early Sixties:
“Left Dylan Thomas and someone else with a big bruise on right forehead – thin mediocre type – in cab on 6th Avenue, 15 minutes ago.
I was in San Remo sitting relaxed towards closing time when they walked in. I only half-recognized him when they came in door & stood next to my seat at bar.
Thomas said, “Congratulations” and “Imagine that”, when bartender spoke his name overloud & said he’d read his poem over the bar.
“Don’t believe everything you hear”, Thomas said to me.
“Only if it’s spoken loud enough, I answered.
His companion said, “Where do you go to school?” – I said I didn’t go, huffily.
“Do you know – ever study English literature”, said companion.
“Of course, I’m a poet myself”, I said.
“Do you know who this is?”, he said
“Of course, man, it’s obvious”
“Oh, another”, said Thomas.
“Well don’t look at me”, I said, stiffening up.
Thomas, “I was just in another pub – drinking place – whatever you call them – and a girl said to me – would you like somewhere to go to see a girl and me do a trick?”
“Is it a question of interpretation of “trick””, I said
“No, I’m a professional”, Thomas said, “I’m a professional”.
“Well I just thought it was a question of language”, I said
“But she wanted $50 which I didn’t have “
“Do you know any amateurs?”, he asked.
“I think the best I can do is knock on a door and it will be opened by a pretty girl who’ll offer us a bottle of beer”.
“Will she do a trick?”
“I can only supply one pretty girl who’ll open her door”, I said
“Well, that’s a lot, that’s half of it”.
“That’s the way the world is”, we agreed.
“But that’s a lot”, he said. “What can you do?” I said.
I then said that Lucien and Cessa would be newspaper people at home. “But they have ‘likker, but they aren’t “intelligent”.”
“Well I insist they’ll have to be intelligent” – he.
“No, I didn’t want to mention that – they, of course, of course, have feelings, heart, mind, suffering – and nobility”.
He nodded understanding .
I was very eager to see him off and go along. But everything was very chancy and superficial and no action took place. I called Lucien. There was no answer. Alas!
I came back and said they weren’t home – and on and on. Mary Jo was there [at bar]. “Who’s she?” they wanted to know.
He could have had her but she was silly & he a fool about reputation.
Said, “I’ve got the shortest legs in the world. My belly hangs down to my groin”.
She chatted and camped but no action.
I tried to get him to go to Dusty’s – the bartender took him aside and asked me to leave. I said to Thomas, “Shall I wait outside?. He nodded very gently & graciously, perfect gentleman tho’ he didn’t know me,
Later outside I remembered my attic and he said, “but not an attic… Just you and me?”. “That’s all”, I replied. He had said he had a bottle along too. “I want to go to drink the bottle where there are other people around”.
Outside Victor and several other heavy-handed hipsters – 3 of them stood by the door while I sat on gutter & waited – They were conversing, wondering why narcissistic girls went for weak-chinned people like him – talking about him in manly cultural underground terms, but spitefully, asserting their own virility and new generation removal from dependence or sympathy with him – said , “Byron had strength”, and complemented each other too.
I yelled “Hey” when he came out and got up and joined them too – wasn’t sure he’d even remember. He said, “I never was so bored” by the action inside Remo with proprietors –
I had difficulty raising subject of continuing on with him as I asked inside by saying, “I don’t know what will happen but if I may I wish to continue and go on with you where ever you are going tonight if you have anywhere to go”. He said, “Yes, I’d be glad, of course” – but with eye wandering, alas but, so dissolute he was he meant it too, just as well.
On way he stopped in middle of street. “I don’t know what to do” –
I took up the initiative and said,
“OK, I’m telling you, then come with me !
Meanwhile companion said, “I’m awfully tired, should go home”, and “Caitlin is waiting”.
Finally Thomas decided to go and I closed a cab door on them, ran to other side & stuck my tongue in window at him which I immediately regretted tho’ I meant it as a friendly gesture. He stared out at me, drunkenly, without response.
We had been followed down corner and West 4th Street by 3 subterraneans. I ran off, leaping.
Friend companion earlier had said about bruise – “In fight” – on account of Thomas saying things – an hour ago, wound up in hospital.
Ah, Dylan Thomas, I would have liked to know you that night, wish I could have communicated who I was, my true feeling, and its importance to you. For I too am a lover of the soul.
How disappointing to come away empty-handed with no recognition from this Chance meeting – I fell sick and unhappy because I could not make a great sweet union of the moment of life – now this is 45 minutes after, it will pass but it is sad & true.”
Nigel Williams 2003 BBC documentary, Dylan Thomas, From Grave To Cradle (with the voices of Dylan Thomas and those who knew him), a personal odyssey in search of the poet is available in 7-parts on You Tube
“In My Craft or Sullen Art” (from the famous Caedmon recordings) may be heard here.
October 27, Dylan Mariais Thomas was born on this day.