Every year at this time, I start rehearsing A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas, who was born one hundred years ago on October 27, 1914. It’s a wonderful story about a man, about my age, remembering his childhood Christmases. “I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six.”
I first heard the poem at a small Christmas dinner hosted by Ian and Victoria Robertson at their cozy home on the campus of Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, NC. I fell in love with Thomas’ rich language. “Birds the color of red-flannel petticoats whisked past the harp-shaped hills.” “The wind through the trees made noises as of old and unpleasant and maybe web-footed men wheezing in caves.”
While Ian read for a pleasant twenty-seven minutes; I kept thinking, what would it be like to learn such a beautiful piece by heart? Soon after, I got a copy and started memorizing. It took me a few months to learn the whole poem. The following December 1988, I recited it at Ian and Victoria’s Christmas dinner.
I was thirty-eight at the time and had no idea twenty-six years later I’d be more excited that ever about performing Child’s Christmas as a gift to my friends this coming holiday season. According to NPR’s On Point with Tom Ashbrook, A Child’s Christmas in Wales, is more popular in America than ever. Every time I perform the poem, I learn something new; that’s why they call it art, right?
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