Controversial poet Ronald Stuart Thomas was considered to be one of the leading writers of the twentieth century. This book, in three parts, interprets the development of a major theme over Thomas's twenty-seven volumes, probing particular themes and poems with a meticulous insight. The themes of identity, environment, and deity treated reflect the major preoccupations of his life and work. The book presents a comprehensive examination of these major themes as they occur across Thomas's substantial oeuvre, while providing an expanded frame within which the considerable complexity of Thomas's work can be explored. It suggests that such poetic explorations and revelations of identity provide the prima materia of the poetry and form an underlying foundation to Thomas's poetry viewed as a single body of work. Thomas's treatment of the natural world, in particular the theology of nature mysticism vital to much of his work, is then discussed. The book also looks closely at Thomas's increasing preoccupation with science. It explores his philosophical concern with a scientific register for poetry, his own experimentation with that register, his subtle ambivalence towards applied technology, his ongoing critique of 'the machine', and his view of modern physics. Finally, examining Thomas's 'religious poetry', the book re-focuses on the exact nature of his poetic approach to a 'theology of experience' as reflected in his 'mythic' and 'via negativa' modes. It highlights Thomas's 'reconfiguring' of theology, that is, his insistence on the central validity and importance of individual spiritual experience, both as absence and as presence.
reunification or arrival. This turning aside for
Thomas enables a temporary defeat of time and healing of the wound,
while itself becoming a source of poetry. Thomas’s stance can be seen to
turn gradually from one of active pursuit to one of contemplative silence.
In all this we can see as well that, for Thomas, poetry does not merely
function as tool in the work toward realisation of the self and God, but
that poetry, its process, is the exploration and discovery of that self.
‘Long torture of delayed birth’
If ‘This To Do’ seems to indicate a project yet to be undertaken
This chapter examines the source and nature of R. S. Thomas's position on science, his path to that position, and, throughout both of these, the rich poetic manifestations of that position. It also examines Thomas's prose-writing as, in some ways, the clearest articulation of that position on science. By turning to these 'prose sources', one can understand more easily the sometimes hidden lines of continuity which thread these often radically forward-looking poems. Ned Thomas's 1992 article for Planet entitled 'R. S. Thomas: The Question about Technology' provides a rare and useful point of departure into the subject of science in Thomas's poetry. The chapter takes up Thomas's early position, as he argues it in the prosework, on the theoretical use of scientific language in poetry, turning to the poems themselves to illustrate his practice of that theory.
the Aberdaron period contribute
increasingly toward a sustained project in autobiography. My suggestion here is not that Thomas begins a project in poetic autobiography
after moving to Aberdaron, but more that, for Thomas, poetry, by its
very definition, is autobiography. The poems written after the move to
Aberdaron illustrate a significant acceleration and intensification of that
In this first chapter my technique will be to explore the idea of poetry
as autobiography using Thomas’s poem ‘This To Do’, but also introducing the work of a