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This review is taken from PN Review 164, Volume 31 Number 6, July - August 2005.

A BREATH OF AIR EDWARD THOMAS, Collected Poems. Edited by R.G. Thomas (Faber) £12.99

A new Faber edition of Edward Thomas's Collected Poems is a welcome breath of air. Edward Thomas, the poet's poet, is uncontroversially presented in Peter Sachs' new introduction as a 'poet of the perennial', carrying on the English plain style tradition from Chaucer to Thomas Hardy. Less conventionally, Sachs is admirably successful in articulating the delicately elusive qualities of Thomas's verse. Thomas is a 'tramp in spirit', 'typically aslope', treading a path 'in or beyond the margin of the road' with an 'effortless peripheral vision':

The green roads that end in the forest
are strewn with white goose feathers this June,

Like marks left behind by someone gone to the forest
To show his track. But he has never come back.
                                                   ('The Green Roads')

This introduction is complemented by Walter de la Mare's 1920 preface to a previous collection. De la Mare, still sharpened by his sense of recent loss (Thomas was killed in 1917), and one of few contemporary poets whose work Thomas esteemed, demonstrates a keen and subtle understanding of Thomas, present as much in sentence structure and word-order as in the words:

Loose-woven, monotonous, unrelieved, the verse, as verse, may appear to a careless reader accustomed to the customary. It must be read slowly, as naturally as if it were talk, without much emphasis; it will then surrender himself.

Thomas's 144 poems, however, are not given ...


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