The Poems of Edward Thomas

The office book club has thrown a bit of a curve ball at me this month because instead of reading a novel, we are exploring the collected poems of Edward Thomas. As I may have explained before, I am not good with poetry as a rule, but having recently read The Iliad in verse (get me!) I’ve decided that it’s down to lack of practice, so agreed to take on the challenge. And as I have never read any Edward Thomas, if I didn’t like the poetry I wouldn’t be able to blame any preconceptions either. I have to say I’ve been pleasantly surprised.

Edward Thomas wrote all of his poetry between December 1914 and his death in April 1917, yet it would be unfair to describe him as a war poet because he doesn’t write about war. A great nature lover, his poetry deals with the countryside of Hampshire, Lincolnshire and Wales; everything from birds’ nests to bushes feature and it is clear that he has great fondness for what he sees around him. Yet he was more than a nature poet. One of his poems which has already stuck in my mind is Old Man’s Beard, a poem about a bush which grew near the door of his house. This allows him to explore remembering and misremembering and how the bitter scent of the plant triggers memories of passing the bush as a child.

None of his poetry is difficult to read, but is very lyrical and easy on the ear. I would like to hear some of it read aloud (my poetry reading is abysmal) as I have a feeling it would send me off into a very nice sleep. It’s also extremely visual, and yet seems to go beyond that; you follow the walker as he treks the fields and valleys, noting the birdsong and the changes in the weather and you become part of the poem as you read. I don’t recall having this experience with Keats or Shelley, so I’m finding this a fascinating experience.

Hats off to the book club for making me read something I would never otherwise have picked up. Perhaps I’m not as bad at poetry as I thought I was?

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