Planet 225

Romola Parish reviews
R.S. Thomas: Too Brave to Dream: Encounters with Modern Art
Edited by Tony Brown and Jason Walford-Davies

R.S. Thomas: Too Brave to Dream: Encounters with Modern Art

Bloodaxe, £12.00

Scraping the literary barrel of any dead poet can lead to either excitement or disappointment. Some poems are not finished and/or published by their author for a reason. But that does not mean that posthumous collections of previously unpublished poems are not enjoyable or have no value. Too Brave to Dream invites both anticipation, being new poems from an old friend, and excitement, as these augment his less common ekphrastic offerings. The book draws together untitled poems found slotted in between the pages of art books edited by Herbert Read on modernist and surrealist art. It presents the pictures in full colour, opposite the poem or poems responding to it, on large square pages and in generous font, balancing word and image in contrast to, for example, Between Here and Now, where the poorer quality monochrome reproductions are visually subordinate.

There is an element of disappointment: these poems are not polished and some appear less finished than others. To some readers who find Counterpoint controversial, several of the poems that fall into that more experimental, modernist style with its unsettling enjambment may prove frustrating. But the unfinished quality of the poems offers those of us who never knew R.S. Thomas in person an intimate glimpse into the shaping of his poetry, and the modernist style is very apt for the subject matter.

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