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Celebrating Edward Thomas

13 April 2017

On the centenary of his untimely death, one of modern poetry’s most influential figures, Edward Thomas, is being celebrated in Cardiff, home to the world’s richest Thomas archive.

Celebrating Edward Thomas 100, hosted by Cardiff University’s School of English, Communication and Philosophy, will remember the poet and author whose work inspired some of the foremost poets and prose writers of the 20th century, including R.S. Thomas, Michael Longley and Robert MacFarlane.

A major – but often overlooked – figure in modern poetry, Thomas wrote just 144 poems in the last few years of his life, composing 16 over 20 days at the height of his creativity in 1915.

His poems often chart journeys on foot through the natural world, chronicling birds, plants, flowers, lakes and hills. Unlike the so-called trench poets, Edward Thomas’ poetry was written before he was sent to the Western Front.

Thomas would only live to see his book of verse, Six Poems, in print, initially publishing under a pseudonym, Edward Eastaway. On Easter Monday 1917 he was killed by a shell blast at Arras, aged just 39.

A major international conference

The centenary event at Cardiff University will include a major international conference, writing workshop, a poetry performance, and a daily dose of poetry by tweet.

A public exhibition will also feature items from the Edward Thomas archive, the world’s largest Edward Thomas collection, which was brought to the University some fifty years ago, and is now stored in the University’s Special Collections Archive.

Conference organiser, Professor of English Literature Katie Gramich said: “Throughout his life Edward Thomas was on a quest for ‘home’, understood as both a physical sense of belonging in the world and a metaphysical sense of wholeness and plenitude...”

“One hundred years after his tragic death, we are bringing him home to Wales, to celebrate his extraordinary literary output and to trace his poetic origins and influences.”

Professor Katie Gramich Emerita Professor

“We are very fortunate to have the foremost scholars of Edward Thomas among our speakers, including Edna Longley, Lucy Newlyn, Andrew Webb, and Guy Cuthbertson, as well as a new tranche of younger scholars who are discovering Thomas afresh.”

The Edward Thomas 100 conference (19 – 21 April) takes place at the School of English, Communication and Philosophy. Among delegates from around the world will be members of the poet’s family.

Celebrating Edward Thomas 100 is supported by the Learned Society of Wales and Literature Wales.

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