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Thomas v Thomas: Battle of the Bards

22 October 2014

Who would you consider to be Wales' poetic heavyweight? As the world celebrates the centenary of Dylan Thomas's birth this year, why is it that Wales' other famous poet, R.S. Thomas, has often been forgotten?

Scholars and twin brothers Damian Walford Davies and Jason Walford Davies will go mano e mano to debate these questions, one making the case for Dylan Thomas and the other for R.S. Thomas, in this battle of two twentieth-century literary giants on S4C's arts programme Pethe this week (Sunday 26 October 9pm).

In the blue corner, monstrous, mitching Dylan, whose gift of the gab took English in radical new directions. In the red corner, ironic R.S, whose more thin-lipped lines took him into deep space in search of God.

Fighting for Dylan Thomas, Professor Damian Walford Davies, Head of Cardiff University's School of English, Communication and Philosophy, says: "In this bout of the bards, I'm the guardian of Dylan's gum shield, but at the end of the fight, there may be more than one winner."

Twin brother Dr Jason Walford Davies, Senior Lecturer and Co-Director of the R.S. Thomas Research Centre at Bangor University, quips: "I'm in R.S. Thomas's corner as an admirer of his poetic stamina, but also of his ability to land the knockout poem."

In their quest to present their arguments, the twins go on different journeys around Wales. In Swansea, Damian meets journalist Kate Crockett who has written the first ever Welsh-language biography Mwy Na Bardd: Bywyd a Gwaith Dylan Thomas (More Than a Poet: The Life and Works of Dylan Thomas). He also travels to the poet's famous shed in Laugharne and sets a challenge to a poetry class in Cardiff where he tries to answer those critics who have queried Dylan's Welshness.

Meanwhile, Jason heads to R.S. Thomas' home in Y Rhiw, near Aberdaron, where he meets academic and poet Gwyn Thomas. While also meeting year 8 pupils of Ysgol Tryfan, Bangor, he argues that the poet's personal and spiritual poems have a true international appeal despite the priest's mysterious, intense and dark image.

Before coming to their fascinating and colourful conclusions, the two meet up at Mumbles, Swansea, along with Professor M Wynn Thomas of the English Department, Swansea University, an expert on both Thomases.

Dylan Thomas v RS Thomas: Brwydr Y Beirdd airs on Sunday 26 October at 9pm on S4C. More information is available

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