Arts & Entertainment
Poetic License (and Leases)
by Mallory Passuite, 02/15/2012
White Horse Tavern. Photo: Malcolm Brown
Dylan Thomas (1914–1953)
Welsh poet Dylan Thomas lived in New York City, where he befriended local creatives, on extended visits for reading tours between 1950 and 1953. In February 1950, Thomas presented a reading at the Kaufmann Auditorium of the 92nd Street Y, to an audience that included e.e. cummings, who later became a good friend. Dylan also premiered Under Milk Wood here in 1953.
The Chelsea Hotel became Thomas' home in America. His favorite spots included the Minetta Tavern, where you can still eat today. But, perhaps most famously, his favorite was White Horse Tavern, or The Horse, as he was known to call it. Built in 1880 and still open for business today, the venue is one of the City's oldest bars. While details remain in debate, it is said that after claiming to have downed 18 whiskies there one night in November 1953 he was taken, unconscious, to the now-closed St. Vincent's hospital (Seventh Avenue and West 11th Street), where he died.
The day following that of Dylan's death, his friend, the late New York sculptor David Slivka, snuck into the funeral home to visit Dylan's deceased body. Slivka cast a death mask, from which he created five bronze busts of the poet's head. One of them is housed in the Unterberg Poetry Center of the 92nd Street Y. On November 13, 1953—four days after his death—nearly 400 of Thomas' fans and friends attended his memorial mass at The Church of St. Luke in the Fields.