This was… honestly, a bizarre read. R.S. Thomas seems to have been a man of contradictions — funny, stern, hard, tender, quiet, garrulous. At one moment he’s refusing to answer questions about his poems and the next, this:
‘Anyway, they wanted this scene in which Thomas came out of his church and walked down the path. Everything was set up and he appeared in a full surplice. But whether he’d become fed up, I don’t know, for he suddenly raised his arms and started to run towards them, shouting, “I’m a bird, I’m a bird.” It’s not on film. Either the cameraman was too stunned or Thomas was running too fast.’
This is a chatty sort of biography, and not a strictly organised one. I don’t think Byron Rogers even tries to present some kind of unified view of Thomas. He makes it seem impossible, even. He made me laugh at Thomas and feel sorry for him, sometimes in the same moments, and he opened up his poetry to me that bit more in the ways he selected sections to quote.
I loved reading this, and I have a bizarre, amused love for R.S. Thomas. I don’t know whether it would have appalled or tickled the man to know that a little English-speaking Welsh twenty-three year old like me feels this way about him: it’s a tough call to make, it could go either way.