R.S. Thomas (1913-2000) is a major writer of our time, one of the finest religious poets in the English language and one of Wales's greatest poets. His output was prolific: over six decades he published some 25 individual collections of poems, as well as several volumes of prose. A substantial number of his poems, however, have hitherto remained uncollected, and often elusive - poems published in newspapers, magazines and journals (many of them obscure), as well as in private or limited editions. Uncollected Poems - published to mark the centenary of Thomas's birth - brings together for the first time a rigorous selection of the best of these. The fruit of several years' research by Tony Brown and Jason Walford Davies, the volume makes available work which spans the whole of Thomas's career - from an early sonnet to his first wife, M.E. Eldridge (included in his first, unpublished, collection Spindrift in the late 1930s) and an early Iago Prytherch poem published in the Dublin Magazine, to poems which are powerful expressions of the metaphysical meditations of his later years. R.S. Thomas's Uncollected Poems takes its place alongside Collected Poems 1945-1990 (Dent, 1993; Phoenix, 2000), Selected Poems (Penguin, 2003) and Collected Later Poems 1988-2000 (Bloodaxe Books, 2004). It gives readers of R.S. Thomas's work access to much new and fascinating material. Uncollected Poems is a companion volume to R.S. Thomas's Collected Later Poems 1988-2000 (Bloodaxe Books, 2004), the sequel to Collected Poems 1945-1990 (Dent, 1993; Phoenix Press, 2000), which only covers his collections up to Experimenting with an Amen (1986). Collected Later Poems 1988-2000 reprints in full the contents of R.S. Thomas's last five collections, The Echoes Return Slow (Macmillan, 1988: unavailable for many years), and Bloodaxe's Counterpoint (1990), Mass for Hard Times (1992), No Truce with the Furies (1995) and the posthumously published Residues (2002). There is no overlap between the two Bloodaxe editions: none of the poems in Residues, uncollected at the time of his death in 2000, is included in Uncollected Poems.
'Gathered in from far and wide, and chronicling sixty years of austere devotion to language, these poems remind us that brevity was for R.S. Thomas ever the soul of passion, and unnerving honesty his guarantor of truth. Bitter elegies for the "botched land" of Wales and baffled encounters with "the incorrigibly human" here keep company with jeremiads for his civilisation and the sound of one hand clapping for his God. But, most touchingly for this laureate of loneliness, there are also occasional gentle, shy poems of love, even in old age: "Come to me a moment, stand,/ Ageing yet lovely still,/ At my side...' - Professor M. Wynn Thomas. 'Like Yeats, Thomas has produced his most powerful work in his old age - reminds me of Beethoven's last quartets in its fearless exploration of the mysteries of life and death - He is the first great poet since the Metaphysicals of the 17th century to draw his images from the science of his day' - Denis Healey. 'Reading R.S. Thomas's poems has become like reading the prophet Jeremiah - we find the same tenacity of theme and purpose; the ability to look without blinking into the misuse of the raw material of humanity' - David Scott.