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Gwybodaeth Lyfryddol
Writing Wales in English: Edward Thomas - The Origins of his Poetry
Judy Kendall
ISBN: 9780708324035 (0708324037)Dyddiad Cyhoeddi Ionawr 2012
Cyhoeddwr: Gwasg Prifysgol Cymru / University of Wales Press, Caerdydd
Fformat: Clawr Meddal, 216x138 mm, 240 tudalen Iaith: Saesneg Allan o Stoc - Archebir yn ôl y galw Ein Pris: £24.99 
Does dim Adolygiad Cwsmer i'r teitl hwn.
 
Ysgrifennwch Adolygiad Cwsmer
Astudiaeth o fywyd a gwaith Edward Thomas (1878-1917), bardd a aned yn Llundain i deulu o Gymru. Mae'r gyfrol yn cynnwys cerddi a rhyddiaith y llenor hwn, ynghyd â'i ohebiaeth.

A critical study of the much-loved early twentieth century English poet Edward Thomas - the 'poet's poet'. It includes illuminating new readings of his poems, prose and letters. Topics covered include his close relation to nature, the land and landscape.
Judy Kendall manages to tessellate Thomas’s external world and his internal thought processes to produce a comprehensive portrait of the ‘most highly regarded critic of his day’. Thomas’s rapid production of poetry (for periods at a rate of one poem a day) resulted in only the sketchiest of documentation of the writing process surviving (if, of course, it ever existed in the first place). Therefore, Kendall relies heavily on the volume of letters and reviews that Thomas wrote, and terms the product of this research ‘an epistolary reading of his poetic processes’.

Perhaps unconventionally, Kendall draws parallels between the work of the Japanese masters of haiku (notably Basho and Takahashi), and the work of Thomas. She justifies this position by pointing out Thomas’s explicit appreciation of Yone Noguchi and she also tells the reader that the poets of the early twentieth century were generally very influenced by the ‘Japanese concept of ma (‘space’ or ‘interval’)’.

I think Kendall is rather clever to marry two such differing traditions in order to more fully explore Thomas’s influences. She frames the poet as somebody kicking against the constraints of perfectly aligned and measured ‘Victoriana’, somebody looking to reconnect to the natural rhythms and language of nature through his idiomatic bird vernacular, his fish that ‘laugh and shriek’ in the dark forest. Space here doesn’t allow me to do justice to this section of the biography, but suffice to say that you must (absolutely!) read it. His quasi-eastern, spiritual affiliation with the natural world provoked him to question the arbitrary names that we give things (a tree, a river, a cat) and needled him into a semi-tortuous lifelong quest to learn the diction of the sedge warbler, or the field. Could poetry bridge the divide that separates man from flora and fauna? Thomas thought so, and his resulting experiments on the page are fascinating and revelatory. For a curious psyche that touches on subjects as chewy as the esoteric, Kendall is an excellent tour-guide. The reader never feels lost, given her wonderful clarity.

The reader also gets a fantastic sense of the man behind the experimental verse. We meet a man both generous and hyper-critical towards other writers. His admiration for Coleridge was ‘unequivocal’. On the other hand, he wrote that ‘there is more wisdom in the amber maple leaf or the poise of a butterfly or the silence of a league of oaks than in all the poems of Wordsworth’.

He was equally lacking in propriety when it came to the reception of his own work. One rejection letter from Blackwoods, Kendall tells us, was met with defiance from the poet. In a letter to his friend he wrote, ‘I suppose Blackwoods just thought it looked very much like prose and was puzzled by the fact that it was got up like verse. I only hope the mistake was his and prefer to think it likely.’ I really enjoyed reading Thomas’s fits of certainty. The man had what we would call, in modern parlance, ‘character’. This comes across too in his hoax of 1905. His book, Beautiful Wales, contained poems, fully augmented with accompanying notes, that he claimed were translations of ancient, forgotten Welsh songs. These ‘songs’ were in fact, not the produce of the mysterious ‘Llewelyn the Bard’, but instead, the newly invented lyrics of one Edward Thomas.

Thomas didn’t just write as ‘Llewelyn the Bard’ but also under another pseudonym: Edward Eastaway. The creation of Eastaway was not as mischievous as that of Llewelyn. Instead, it was an experiment to see how this ‘unknown’ would fare under the eyes of critics and readers. Luckily for us though, all of these facets of Thomas have been identified as belonging to him, and Kendall has pulled together this sparkling critique of all of his personas, accents and languages.

Jemma King


It is possible to use this review for promotional purposes, but the following acknowledgment should be included: A review from www.gwales.com, with the permission of the Welsh Books Council.

Gellir defnyddio'r adolygiad hwn at bwrpas hybu, ond gofynnir i chi gynnwys y gydnabyddiaeth ganlynol: Adolygiad oddi ar www.gwales.com, trwy ganiatâd Cyngor Llyfrau Cymru.
Bywgraffiad Awdur:
Dr Judy Kendall, Lecturer and Programme Leader for English and Creative Writing at the University of Salford, award-winning writer of poetry, short fiction and visual text.
Gwybodaeth Bellach:
Edward Thomas: The Origins of his Poetry builds a new theoretical framework for critical work on imaginative composition through an investigation of Edward Thomas's composing processes, on material from his letters, his poems and his prose books. Analysis of his drafts, layout and typographic and handwritten habits also illumine both his completed poetry and his approach to composition. It traces connections between Thomas's work and the writing and thought of Freud, Woolf and William James, introduces the significant influence of Japanese aesthetics, and draws surprising and far-reaching conclusions for the study of poetic composition.

The sustained study of some of Thomas’s voluminous correspondence with fellow poets and writers helps also to provide an epistolary reading of his work. The result is an ambitious, detailed original consideration of Thomas as writer of poetry and prose with wide-reaching implications for early twentieth-century aesthetic theory, and the limits or the conditions of the sayable. Through the subtle use of epigraphs from a wide-range of differing sources, the location of the specific readings of Thomas in a much wider intellectual context are explored.
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