Dr. Bonnie Stepenoff donates first printing of Dylan Thomas poem to Rare Book Room

“Do not go gentle into that good night . . . . Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” Welsh poet and writer Dylan Thomas composed this memorable poem in 1951, a moving tribute to his father, an English grammar school teacher dying of heart disease.  The poem, an unusual form of verse known as a villanelle, was originally published in the Italian journal, Botteghe Oscure (No. 8 ) in November 1951. When Thomas sent the poem to the journal’s director and founder Marguerite Caetani, he noted, “The only person I can’t show [it] to is, of course, my father, who doesn’t know he’s dying.”  David John Thomas died in December 1952 and his son, Dylan died in 1953 at the age of 39, a life cut short by alcoholism.  Recently, Kent Library received a copy of the 1951 Botteghe Oscure with the first publication of what is arguably Thomas’ most famous poem. Dr. Bonnie Stepenoff, Professor of History donated the journal for the library’s Rare Book Room. Stepenoff acquired the copy of Botteghe Oscure in the early 1980s when she worked for the State Historical Society.  Stepenoff saw the journal for sale in a bookseller’s catalog, and being a fan of Thomas’ work, knew she had to buy it. “My mother’s family came from Wales,” she told Special Collections Librarian Dr. Lisa Speer.  “I just love the way [Dylan Thomas] uses words. That particular poem has always moved me deeply.” The journal will be available for research and viewing by appointment through Special Collections and Archives, Room 306.  “Do not go gentle into that good night,” was published in book form in 1952 in In Country Sleep and in Collected Poems.  Thomas also recorded the poem twice in 1952 and 1955.  You can listen to Thomas reading his poem at http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/150

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