The Annotated Collected Poems

Mark Ford writes:

Over the years, editions of Thomas have slowly been getting fatter, and this is the fattest yet. Longley’s introduction and apparatus take up more than twice as many pages as the poems themselves, whose texts have been re-edited and so differ somewhat from those presented by R. George Thomas in his 1978 Oxford edition. A number of the endnotes almost amount to mini-essays on the poem under scrutiny: they situate each one in the context of Thomas’s life, and include illuminating passages from his relevant prose writings and extracts from letters of the time; they point out echoes and allusions, even far distant ones, furnish botanical information and historical references, and urge us to savour stylistic nuances. They often reprise the approaches and perceptions of earlier critics, before developing their own new interpretations. They are, in short, a treasure-trove of information and speculation for Thomas enthusiasts, and while I don’t really like being pushed by notes in a critical edition to read a poem in a particular way, this book will undoubtedly facilitate seminar-room discussion of Thomas’s work, and so help a little, at least, in the struggle Longley would like to foment in university English departments between her reticent hero and the giants of Modernism.

(LRB 1 January 2009)