Edward Thomas wrote a lifetime’s poetry in two years. Already a dedicated prose writer and influential critic, he became a poet only in December 1914, at the age of 36. In April 1917 he was killed at Arras. Often viewed as a “war poet”, he wrote nothing directly about the trenches; also seen as a “nature poet”, his symbolic reach and generic range expose the limits of that category too. A central figure in modern poetry, he is among the half-dozen poets who remade English poetry in the early 20th century.
Edna Longley published an earlier edition of Thomas’s poetry in 1973. Her work advanced his reputation as a major modern poet. Now she has produced a revised version, which includes all his poems and draws on freshly available archive material. The extensive Notes contain substantial quotations from Thomas’s prose, letters and notebooks, as well as a new commentary on the poems.
The prose hinterland behind Edward Thomas’s poems helps us to understand their depth and complexity, together with their contexts in his troubled personal life, in wartime England, and in English poetry. Edna Longley also shows how Thomas’s criticism feeds into his poetry, and how he prefigured critical approaches, such as “ecocriticism”, that are now applied to his poems. The text of this edition, which has a detailed textual apparatus, differs in small but significant ways from that of other extant collections of Thomas’s poems.
'Edna Longley’s definitive new edition of Edward Thomas’s Collected Poems makes a case for the enduring, essential relevance to the 21st century of this English poet who died in World War I. The book is a crowning achievement by Thomas’s best advocate, approachable by the beginner and invaluable to the specialist, with a critical apparatus which is at once a biography tracing the growth of the poet’s mind and an engrossing anthology of his vivid, melancholy prose’ – Seamus Heaney, Sunday Business Post (Dublin)
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