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This review is taken from PN Review 249, Volume 46 Number 1, September - October 2019.

Cover of Shards of Light
Sam AdamsRight and Wrong
Shards of Light, Emyr Humphreys (University of Wales Press) £11.99

In his long and distinguished career as a novelist Emyr Humphreys has carried off the Somerset Maugham Prize and the Hawthornden Prize and twice won the Welsh Arts Council’s Book of the Year award. It now appears that, in addition to his steady output of prose, including twenty­three novels, scholarly books and numerous articles about the history, language and culture of Wales, he is among the more prolific of significant contemporary poets.

Until Collected Poems (UWP) appeared in 1999, what we knew of him as a poet in book form was largely confined to Ancestor Worship (1971), a cycle of eighteen poems in a neat, slim volume from Gwasg Gee, and his part, alongside John Ormond and John Tripp, in Penguin Modern Poets 27 (1979). We now understand (from M. Wynn Thomas’s vital contribution to Humphreys studies) that he began his writing life as a poet and although prose, especially prose fiction, eventually took precedence, he continued producing poems. In Collected Poems, there is ample evidence of the novelist’s focus on character and narrative carrying over into the other genre. Individual poems reflect life experience as a charity worker in war-torn Europe and in the media. Alongside sequences exploring Welsh topographical features, and re-telling stories from the Mabinogion, are his own poems in the Welsh language and English versions of poems by Saunders Lewis, Gwenallt and other key figures in twentieth­century Welsh literature, confirming the depth of Humphreys’s commitment to Wales. It is a richly varied collection in content and prosody.

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