Songwriter wins Dylan prize
Christina Patterson

Dylan Thomas might have been happy to "labour by singing light/Not for ambition or bread" but he died in poverty. Most writers have to be rather relaxed about paying the rent—or the bar bills. Rachel Trezise, who recently won the EDS Dylan Thomas Award, can now breathe easy for quite a while. The new £60,000 prize, for an English language writer under the age of 30, is one of the biggest literary awards in the world.

Established to honour the work of Swansea’s most famous son, the prize is backed by its most famous daughter, Catherine Zeta Jones, who named her son Dylan after the Welsh poet.

"We decided not to be afraid of awarding the prize to a Welsh writer," said the screenwriter and chair of the judges, Andrew Davies, "because she did seem to us to be the most original. It was an exciting and closely fought debate. Rachel won it because she has a totally original voice which didn't remind us of anyone else."

Wearing a green silk frock she had bought on eBay, Trezise collected her award from Dylan Thomas's daughter, Aeronwy, at a gala dinner at Swansea's Brangwyn Hall.

It was Dylan Thomas's birthday and the first night of the annual Dylan Thomas festival, which takes place at the city's Dylan Thomas Centre. As if these were not Thomas references enough, Trezise's book begins with an epigraph from the poet's famous radio play, Under Milk Wood: "Oh isn't life a terrible thing, thank God?"

Looking at the facts of Trezise's life, you might well think so. Born in the Rhondda Valley in 1978, she was brought up by her mother, a barmaid and cleaner, after her parents divorced when she was four.

When she was 14, she ran away from home, working as a waitress and living in a squat.

Between the age of 16 and 18, she tried to kill herself three times. She found some solace, however, in writing stories and "really bad poems". She also discovered the work of the American writers Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison. It was in their tales, of oppression and abuse, and in the taut drama of Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, that she learnt that writing could reflect the reality of a life like hers.

The result, In and Out of the Goldfish Bowl, an autobiographical account of a young girl growing up in the South Wales valleys, against a background of sexual abuse, economic breakdown and drugs, was published by the Welsh press, Parthian, in 2000.