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This article is taken from PN Review 154, Volume 30 Number 2, November - December 2003.

Jammed Judy Kendall

... jammed as it were, like the lost word when we seek too energetically to recall it... voluntary effort slanting from the true direction.'
                  William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience.

As anyone possessing even a passing acquaintance with the hagiography of Edward Thomas will know, for much of his life his creative processes were jammed. It is true that he wrote an estimate of 1,122 long reviews, half as many short ones, over a dozen books of criticism, prose essays and country writing, and even a handful of poems in his earlier writing days, but, for many years, until at the age of thirtysix his poetry started to 'run', he felt that his creative writing was at an impasse. This makes him, of course, an ideal candidate for the post of explorer of the creative process of writing poetry - his continual self-searching and doubts about himself as a writer, his copious output of critical writing on the nature of poetry, and his final and glorious ascent into a lyricist in his last years, all serve as further proof of his eminent suitability for this job.

In 1902 he lamented, half-ironically, to his friend and correspondent, Jesse Berridge, that 'my imaginings [are] all in a cupboard and only my lies are in print' (Letters, ed. John Moore, p.282), weighing the 'lies' not against truth, but against 'imaginings', setting out a distance at which both forms of expression lie from what they ...

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