From Laugharne Boathouse to Library Walk

On my way to work I sometimes take a street in midtown Manhattan where an unsung marvel known as “Library Walk” celebrates the world’s great books and writers. For the length of two city blocks I’m distracted by bronze reliefs in granite plaques set into the sidewalk. They are beautiful to look at and inspiring to read. This one, for instance, memorializes Dylan Thomas:


One of the 96 plaques of Library Walk
designed by Greenwich Village sculptor Gregg Lefevre.

Although they’re unsung, I’m hardly the first to notice the 96 plaques that line 41st Street between Park and Fifth Avenues. See Clyde Haberman’s story in The New York Times or Mija Riedel’s in The Washington Post. Riedel must have taken a cue from Haberman for this sweet lede: “In New York, the wittiest, wisest ideas lie underfoot — literally. All you have to do is look down.” But even if you do, you’ll see only the second stanza of Thomas’s poem. Here’s the first:

In my craft or sullen art
Exercised in the still night
When only the moon rages
And the lovers lie abed
With all their griefs in their arms,
I labor by singing light
Not for ambition or bread
Or the strut and trade of charms
On the ivory stages
But for the common wages
Of their most secret heart.

Several years after writing “In My Craft or Sullen Art” — it was published in 1946 in the volume Deaths and Entrances — Dylan Thomas moved to Laugharne Boathouse, where he lived and worked from 1949 to 1952. It was there at the writing shed that he wrote many of his great lyrical poems, including what may be his most famous, “Do not go gentle into that good night.” (Click to hear the poet himself reading it.)

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