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With R. S. Thomas on the pilgrim way

21 March 2014

Richard Harries finds fresh insight into a poet's discipleship

Etched by Silence: A pilgrimage through the poetry of  R. S. Thomas
Jim Cotter, compiler
Canterbury Press £9.99
Church Times Bookshop £9 (Use code CT477 )

JIM COTTER has selected 52 poems by R. S. Thomas, including the one the poet himself cherished at the end, with a view to helping people to use them to make a personal pilgrimage. A few are well known, while many others, though perhaps once read, may not have been taken in at a first reading, or have been quickly forgotten; so it is good to have this compilation.

They have been chosen, mainly from the poems from the 1970s onwards, not just because each one fits neatly on to a single page, but because they focus fairly directly on the poet's unending quest for and argument with God.

Originally designed for a physical pilgrimage on the Llŷn Peninsula, the collection now includes simple suggestions where or when the poem might be used. It is an excellent selection, and I cannot thinkof a better way into the heart of Thomas's own pilgrimage.

Reading the poems also made me realise, as never before, how much each one reflects his personal struggle at a particular point in his ministry.

The Rt Revd Lord Harries of Pentregarth is the author of The Image of Christ in Modern Art (Ashgate, 2013).

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