Skip to main content

Distributed for University of Wales Press

R. S. Thomas

Serial Obsessive

During his lifetime, R. S. Thomas (1913–2000) achieved notoriety as the Ogre of Wales, a Welsh extremist, and a poet of serial obsessions. This volume explores those elements that fueled Thomas’s fiercely intense imagination, including Wales, his family, and his vexed relationship with religion, as well as with his best-known character, Iago Prytherch. Here, these familiar obsessions are set in several unusual contexts that bring his poetry into new relief: his war poems are considered alongside his early work focusing on the English topographical tradition; comparisons with Borges and Levertov underline the international dimensions of his concerns; the intriguing “secret code” of some of his Welsh-language references is cracked; and his painting-poems, including several hitherto unpublished, are brought to the forefront.

335 pages | 8 color plates, 8 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2013

Biography and Letters

Literature and Literary Criticism: British and Irish Literature

University of Wales Press image

View all books from University of Wales Press


“This previously uncollected collection of essays on R. S. Thomas illustrates, once again, that M. Wynn Thomas has continued to be what he has been from the beginning—R. S. Thomas’s finest critic.”

William Davis, Baylor University

“M. Wynn Thomas circles his subject obsessively, approaching the work of R. S. Thomas in the contexts of its changing times, its gravely playful theological speculations, its dialogue with American verse, its relationship to painting, and much else besides. The result is a cubist portrait of the artist and his work, a seeing-round-corners miracle of insight and illumination. R. S. Thomas is presented less in the round than the polyhedron, the kinks, angles, and many faces of his profound and sometimes difficult poetry brought suddenly into the light by a formidably learned and delicate intelligence. Professor Thomas moves gracefully between the two literatures of Wales—his chapter on the clergyman poet’s debt to the example of Saunders Lewis is a tour de force of translingual subtlety—and between Welsh and international perspectives. R. S. Thomas: Serial Obsessive must be counted an indispensable book for anyone interested in modern poetry or modern Wales.”

Patrick Crotty, University of Aberdeen

Table of Contents


1. War Poet
2. For Wales, See Landscape
3. The Disappearing Clergyman
4. Son of Saunders
5. Family Matters
6. The Leper of Abercuawg
7. Irony in the Soul: R. S.(ocrates) Thomas
8. ‘Time’s Changeling’
9. ‘The fantastic side of God’
10. Transatlantic Relations
11. ‘The fast dipping brush’
12. ‘The brush’s piety’


Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press