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This report is taken from PN Review 190, Volume 36 Number 2, November - December 2009.

Letter from Wales Sam Adams

R.S. Thomas is a poet of consequence. He wrote prolifically (his Collected Later Poems 1988-2000, published by Bloodaxe in 2004, has 183 poems) and there are few troughs in his output. He is reputed a great religious poet, though certainly not of Christian orthodoxies. His power did not diminish with age. Like Thomas Hardy, as an old man he could look back upon a marriage for which austere might be the kindest epithet, and astound with the poignancy of the lyrical impulse. You cannot read ‘A Marriage’ without recognising that an extraordinary delicacy lies in that spindly assemblage of words:

We met
    under a shower
of bird notes.
    Fifty years passed,
love’s moment
    in a world in
servitude to time.
    She was young;
I kissed with my eyes
    closed and opened
them on her wrinkles.
    ‘Come’ said death,
choosing her as his
    partner for
the last dance. And she,
    who in life
had done everything
    with a bird’s grace,
opened her bill now
    for the shedding
    of one sigh no
heavier than a feather.

You might think a man of philosophical bent, possessed of such depth of feeling for the natural world, and antipathy to all manifestations of our modern materialist society, would be an interesting correspondent. If R.S. Thomas: Letters to Raymond Garlick 1951-1999, newly published in hardback and some style ...

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