R.S. Thomas (1913-2000) is a major writer of our time, one of the finest religious poets in the English language and one of Wales’s greatest poets. His output was prolific: over six decades he published some 25 individual collections of poems, as well as several volumes of prose. A substantial number of his poems, however, have hitherto remained uncollected, and often elusive – poems published in newspapers, magazines and journals (many of them obscure), as well as in private or limited editions.
Uncollected Poems – published to mark the centenary of Thomas's birth – brings together for the first time a rigorous selection of the best of these. The fruit of several years' research by Tony Brown and Jason Walford Davies, the volume makes available work which spans the whole of Thomas's career – from an early sonnet to his first wife, M.E. Eldridge (included in his first, unpublished, collection Spindrift in the late 1930s) and an early Iago Prytherch poem published in the Dublin Magazine, to poems which are powerful expressions of the metaphysical meditations of his later years.
R.S. Thomas's Uncollected Poems takes its place alongside Collected Poems 1945-1990 (Dent, 1993; Phoenix, 2000), Selected Poems (Penguin, 2003) and Collected Later Poems 1988-2000 (Bloodaxe Books, 2004). It gives readers of R.S. Thomas's work access to much new and fascinating material.
'Gathered in from far and wide, and chronicling sixty years of austere devotion to language, these poems remind us that brevity was for R.S. Thomas ever the soul of passion, and unnerving honesty his guarantor of truth. Bitter elegies for the "botched land" of Wales and baffled encounters with "the incorrigibly human" here keep company with jeremiads for his civilisation and the sound of one hand clapping for his God. But, most touchingly for this laureate of loneliness, there are also occasional gentle, shy poems of love, even in old age: "Come to me a moment, stand,/ Ageing yet lovely still,/ At my side…"' – Professor M. Wynn Thomas.
'The centenary of Thomas’s birth affords an opportunity to rediscover one of Wales’s greatest poets. Many of the 139 “lost” poems here address the clergyman’s persistent themes: his country; his elusive God; landscape and the characters who seem to grow out of it. The most poignant lines are on love – often lost or stifled, but quietly celebrated.' - Maria Crawford, Financial Times Summer Books Guide
'The publication of 139 “lost” poems...offers refreshed perspectives on a Welshman who wrote his poetry in English...These “uncollected” poems also illustrate the range of Thomas's work: his precise imagery; his prophetic anger as the natural world is threatened by “the machine” and his fierce identity as a Welsh person...' - Dr Martyn Halsall, Church Times
Uncollected Poems is a companion volume to R.S. Thomas’s Collected Later Poems 1988-2000 (Bloodaxe Books, 2004), the sequel to Collected Poems 1945-1990 (Dent, 1993; Phoenix Press, 2000), which only covers his collections up to Experimenting with an Amen (1986). Collected Later Poems 1988-2000 reprints in full the contents of R.S. Thomas’s last five collections, The Echoes Return Slow (Macmillan, 1988: unavailable for many years), and Bloodaxe’s Counterpoint (1990), Mass for Hard Times (1992), No Truce with the Furies (1995) and the posthumously published Residues (2002). There is no overlap between the two Bloodaxe editions: none of the poems in Residues, uncollected at the time of his death in 2000, is included in Uncollected Poems.
R.S. Thomas in 1995
This short portrait of R.S. Thomas was shown in December 1995 by BBC TV's Bookmark after he had been nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature for 1996 (which went to Seamus Heaney). With commentary by Griff Rhys Jones and Denis Healey, it includes Thomas reading two poems, 'Children's Song' and 'The Other'. Filmed mainly on Anglesey, where Thomas lived in his retirement, the film features his former parishes of Aberdaron on Lleyn and Manafon in mid-Wales (with some archive footage from 1963).
Listen to R.S. Thomas reading poems from Collected Later Poems 1988-2000:
I was vicar of large things ('The Echoes Return Slow', 1988)
I look out over the timeless sea ('The Echoes Return Slow', 1988)
There is a being, they say ('Counterpoint', 1990)
It is one of those faces ('Counterpoint', 1990)
A Marriage ('Mass for Hard Times', 1992)
No Time ('No Truce with the Furies', 1995)
Remembering ('No Truce with the Furies', 1995)
Click below to order R.S. Thomas's Uncollected Poems from Amazon:
1 85224 896 3. 176pp. 2013.