R. S. Thomas Analysis

Other literary forms

(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Apart from minor prose pieces, R. S. Thomas’s other creative works have been autobiography, talks, and a number of radio and television broadcasts. His main autobiographical apologia, Neb (1985), meaning “nobody,” was written in Welsh, and in the third person. He also edited a number of volumes of verse, including the Batsford Book of Country Verse (1961) andThe Penguin Book of Religious Verse (1963). He also edited selected volumes of Edward Thomas, a fellow Anglo-Welsh poet, George Herbert, and William Wordsworth. His best-known talk was that given at the National Eisteddford in 1976, entitled “Abercuawg,” about the search for the ideal Welsh village. None of his sermons has been recorded.


(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Over R. S. Thomas’s long poetic career, he won acclaim as the leading Anglo-Welsh poet and, for a period of that time, as one of the leading British poets. His first public recognition was in 1962, when his works were included in the first volume of Penguin Modern Poets. By then, his Song at the Year’s Turning had won the Heinemann Award of the Royal Society of Literature. In 1964, he was offered the Queen’s Medal for Poetry by poet laureate John Masefield. He received the Cholmondeley Award for 1978, and subsequently, three Welsh Arts Council Literary Awards. In 1996, he was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature and was given the Lannan Lifetime Achievement Award.

After his death in 2000, a memorial service was held in Westminster Abbey. Leading Anglo-Irish poet Seamus Heaney read some of his poetry, as did poet laureate Andrew Motion. The R. S. Thomas Research Centre has been set up at the University of Wales, Bangor, where many of his private papers are kept.


(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Anstey, Sandra, ed. Critical Writings on R. S. Thomas. Rev. ed. Chester Springs, Pa.: Dufour Editions, 1992. A collection of essays on Thomas’s poetry dating from 1952 to 1991, including two by A. M. Allchin, and one by Peter Abbs, a fellow Anglo-Welsh poet. The essays are taken from Anglo-Welsh literary journals.

Brown, Tony. R. S. Thomas. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2003. This introductory work, part of the Writers of Wales series, deals with biography and critical assessments and analyses.

Davis, William V. R. S. Thomas: Poetry and Theology. Baylor, Texas: Baylor University Press, 2007. This is an introductory work on Thomas’s poetry, especially his more obviously religious poetry.

McGill, William J. Poets’ Meeting: George Herbert, R. S. Thomas, and the Argument with God. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2003. This compares the two Anglican priest-poets and the way they address God, either from faith or doubt.

Morgan, Christopher. R. S. Thomas: Identity, Environment, Deity. New York: Manchester University Press, 2003. Deals with common themes in Thomas’s volumes of verse, especially those that focus on the philosophical and practical aspects of science and technology (“machine”).

Rogers, Byron. The Man Who Went into the West: The Life of R. S. Thomas. London: Aurum Press, 2006. This is the authorized biography of Thomas, supported with a major research grant from the Welsh Books Council. It includes extensive interviews with Thomas’s son and many others, and the finding of extensive correspondence and documentation not hitherto available.