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R. S. Thomas

It’s not that he can’t speak;
who created languages
but God? Nor that he won’t;
to say that is to imply
malice. It is just that
he doesn’t, or does so at times
when we are not listening, in
ways we have yet to recognize
as speech


“Nuclear” by R.S. Thomas. Find it in his excellent anthology Uncollected Poems.

Luke Coppen answered the question, ‘Was RS Thomas a Great Religious Poet?’ below:

“Was [R.S. Thomas] a great religious poet? Seamus Heaney thought so. He described him as ‘a loner taking on the universe, a kind of Clint Eastwood of the spirit’. You certainly can picture him entering a church like the Man With No Name bursting through saloon bar doors: tough and inscrutable, ready to do battle with the powers within. In his poems we see him kneeling hour after hour before a bare altar waiting for God to break his silence. But Thomas does not see this silence as proof of God’s absence.

It’s this sense of the difficulty of the search for God, of its cost, that makes RS Thomas a major religious poet. He challenges the tendency of modern Christians to offer easy answers to questions people are not asking. There is no cheap feeling in his poetry, no glibness. If you could measure smugness on a scale of one to 10, with Mother Teresa at one end and Jonathan Ross at the other, Thomas would be in minus figures.

Lesser religious poets do little more than set Chicken Soup for the Soul to verse. RS Thomas didn’t aim to soothe but to unsettle with an unflinching record of his inner life. He saw God in workaday things, such as a field lit up by sunlight.

RS Thomas was big enough to contain paradoxes. He was a ferocious Welsh nationalist who spoke with a cut-glass English accent. His poems alluded to advanced physics but he refused to install central heating. He was a devoted parish priest but admitted to a ‘lack of love for human beings’. And he seemed utterly humourless, but one journalist counted him among the three funniest men he had ever met (alongside Lenny Bruce and Ken Dodd).”