We are living through a truly awful biodiversity crisis. Within Wales and the UK the scale of ecological damage was re-cently exposed through the State of Nature report prod-uced by several national conserva-tion organisations. (Iolo Williams’ moving address at the report’s launch in the Senedd is essential YouTube viewing.) Alternative visions to heal our widening ecological rift are desperately needed. George Monbiot, activist and columnist for The Guardian, has offered his view of how we can make amends with nature in his new book Feral: Searching for Enchantment on the Frontiers of Rewilding.
When I met up recently with a couple of old friends, they were discussing the way the young women passing us were dressed: ‘Like porn stars! Nothing’s changed, has it? Look at them!’ I looked – boobs bulging out of push-up bras, tight shorts, pierced belly-buttons, orange skin – the usual. Her partner shook her head. ‘Some things have changed. At least you can say “Fuck off dickhead” to a bloke without getting locked up in a mental hospital.’ In Niall Griffith’s latest novel the teenager Grace Allcock does more than dress like a porn star. She also has her nose surgically realigned and her breasts enlarged. (If you just read that sentence without quite registering the implications, the opening pages of Griffiths’ novel will put you right: a nose job involves smashing through a face with a hammer.)
This is a selection of what the editors, Tony Brown and Jason Walford Davies, consider the best of the poems R.S. Thomas pub-lished in magazines and occasional an-thologies but chose not to include in the collections. A bib-liography provides a list of all the uncollected poems they have traced, so the reader can see at a glance what has been included and what left out, while a short introduction provides a helpful context for their choice. Uncollected Poems is, thankfully, a reading edition, unencumbered by scholarly apparatus. The poems span the whole of R.S. Thomas’s long publishing career, from early work in the Dublin Magazine (1939) to a clutch of poems published in 1998, two years before his death, and a dozen or so that appeared posthumously.
Paul O’Leary cut his scholarly teeth on the history of the Irish community in Wales, his mono-graph Immigration and Integration: The Irish in Wales, 1798-1922 appearing in the Studies in Welsh History series sponsored by the Board of Celtic Studies to much deserved acclaim in 2000. The Irish-Welsh feature significantly in this important new book, the chronological core of which is similarly located in the middle decades of the 19th century. The research project from which it emerges was also funded by the now defunct Board of Celtic Studies, and involved Neil Evans and Mike Benbough-Jackson, whose contributions are generously acknowledged.
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