“Out There” by RS Thomas.

Out There

It is another country.

There is no speech there such

as we know: even the colours

are different.

When the residents use their eyes,

it is not shapes they see but the distance

between them. If they go,

It is not in a traveller’s

Usual direction, but sideways and

out through the mirror of a refracted

timescale. If you meet them early,

you would recognise them by an absence

of shadow. Your problems

are in their past;

those that they are about to solve

are what you are incapable

of conceiving. In experiments

in outbreeding, under the growing microscope

of the mind, they are isolating the human virus and burning it

up in the fierceness of their detachment.

 

 

This year is the centenary of Dylan Thomas’s birth, and while I like some of his stuff, I prefer the work of Wales’s other Thomas, R.S.

Both men are great poets, and as such their work can be described and assessed in many different ways. One superficial description will do for this post for now, however. If the more familiar works of Dylan Thomas are verbally rich and dense, then the work of R.S. Thomas is lean and heavy.

That’s heavy in the hippy sense of being very, very, very serious. A lot of his verse has the quality of a zen riddle. I’ve blogged about R.S. Thomas before (click here if interested) and mentioned that for this reason I can only read a little bit at a time. Most of his poems are on the shorter side, and I always find that a little goes a long way.

A lot of his poems are about a specific subject (as a clergyman, many of his poems are meditations on religion and the nature of God for example). However, he often writes in a different mode, something approaching allegory, where the subject matter is open-ended. While on one level it can be frustrating if you are in the mood for clear cut descriptions and meanings, on the other it’s perfect if you want a challenge and like to make the meaning for yourself.

 

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