REVIEW by Tony Brown

NWR Issue 101

RS Thomas: Poems to Elsi

by Damian Walford Davies (ed)

‘I don’t think I am a very loving person,’ RS Thomas famously said in an interview with a Daily Telegraph journalist in the late 1990s, which fitted the image that newspaper readers would have had of the poet: grim, reclusive, taciturn and not infrequently rude. Yet – and it is, of course, one more paradox in this complex man – Thomas composed some of the greatest love poems written since the Second World War. Indeed, this is where so much of the emotion, 'bottled up’ in his everyday life according to his son, found expression.

In bringing these poems together from Thomas’ various collections (there are also two previously unpublished poems), Damian Walford Davies allows us to see a poet very different from the media cliché: here we find a voice which is loving, caring, gentle, and vulnerable. The editor has chosen not to print the poems in chronological order but in ‘such a way as to give a sense of the rhythms and shifting moods of married life’. I think this organisation is remarkably successful, allowing to us to experience the fifty-year marriage of the poet and Elsi Eldridge for the complex and unusual relationship that it undoubtedly was...

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previous review: RS Thomas, Uncollected Poems
next review: Speak, Old Parrot


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