Dylan Thomas’ 100th Birthday

Oct 27, 2014 | Better Writing

Today is the 100th anniversary of Dylan Thomas’ birth. He is surely one of the great poets and one of my favorites.

If you’re writing for business, you may think that a poet, even a great one, has very little to teach you. That may be true for some poets, but not this one. Here’s how to learn a lot from one of the world’s great writers.

Listen, don’t just read Dylan Thomas

The poems are impressive, but when you listen to Thomas reading them, the experience is even more remarkable. One reason is the man’s incredible speaking voice and the way he delivers the words. The appropriate poems to listen to today are two birthday poems “A Poem on His Birthday” and “Poem in October.”

Pay attention to cadence

Human beings love rhythms. We dance to them. We’re lulled by the rhythmic sound of the surf. Some of the best and most persuasive prose turns out to be rhythmic.

Many ancient poems were recited to the beat of a drum. Beowulf is one example. Robert Graves theorized that the special place we give to rhythmic writing derives from those drumbeats.

Pay attention to word choice

Thomas was a lover of words and he never chose a common one if a more colorful one would do. If you’re a business writer, too many colorful terms can make you seem pretentious. But an occasional well-chosen word can make your message stand out from the pack.

The most important lesson you can learn from Dylan Thomas

Dylan Thomas wrote for the ear. His cadences and word choice and delivery are intended to ring in your ear even if you’re reading one of his poems in silence. The best business writers also write for the ear. The best way to master that skill is to read everything you write aloud.

More Dylan Thomas Resources

 From the Telegraph: Dylan Thomas: best poems and quotes Рwhich is your favourite?

From the New York Times: In Wales, a Toast to Dylan Thomas on His 100th Birthday