Emma Lee finds the new collection from Richard Thomas is one that benefits from being re-visited.

strangest thankyouThe Strangest Thankyou
Richard Thomas
Cultured Llama www.culturedllama.co.uk 
ISBN 9780956892157
96 pp     £8 

 

Richard Thomas’s poems use a conversational rhythm, as if the poet is recalling an anecdote, and they like to play with meaning and ambiguity. In ‘Bad Movie’, viewers see a jackal shot by a gun slinger:

I’ve smelt the gunpowder spread
in the stale air as I heard the jackal
howl long, high and smooth.

The man whose screen it is 
and to whom the movie belongs
seems unmoved in comparison to me.

I wonder if he pays attention at all?
I feel I should walk across to his seat
and tell him: ‘You should be moved.’

.
Here there’s space for readers to interpret that last “moved” as either emotionally moved or physically moved. Likewise it’s not clear whether the bad movie of the title is the film of the jackal being shot or the replayed scene where the viewer fails to react to what’s happening on screen. These poems are both accessible and thought-provoking. The last thing Richard Thomas wants is a passive audience and I don’t doubt that many of these poems have been used in performance.

‘Text’ captures that moment of inspiration when a distraction prompts a poem from a poet detailing a dull notebook in a humdrum day:

 Kirsty MacColl on the radio
with a honeyed voice on suffering,
and I wonder what’s for dinner? –
dead fish and dead potatoes,
humdrum has come upon me,
and black and white wire coil me,
but when the phone suddenly buzzes,
a distraction from the dull living,
and my workspace regains colour,
I forget what’s for dinner

.
The poet can handle rhyme as well as free verse, as the sonnet ‘Dig’ shows:

Should I dig some more of the earth today?
What shattered lighthouse bulb and what riches
should my shovel clank amongst the decay?
The brittle bones laid about in ditches
make each treasure I find more exciting
comparing it with the cracked skull I shook
in my cupped hands after Monday’s digging,
or Tuesday’s find of a fisherman’s hook.
There’s got to be an array of wonder
scattered below amongst the stinking dead,
if I just root underneath a shoulder
of a farmer’s loved one who’d never wed.

I may find beauty and could sell my land,
move to the sea with five rings on each hand.
 

.
It’s fair to say the subject matter is based in personal observation both of people and nature and Richard Thomas prefers to look at and explore the hidden treasures of the everyday. There is skill here: it takes a depth of knowledge in craft to make the poems look so easy. I usually make my first read of a new book in one sitting but on my first read of The Strangest Thankyou I found myself putting it aside to come back to later. Over 56 poems, I would have liked an occasional change in tone. It’s a book to dip into and return to at leisure.

 

Emma Lee’s Ghosts is the Desert is forthcoming from Indigo Dreams Publishing. Her previous publications include Mimicking a Snowdrop and Yellow Torchlight and the Blues.  http://emmalee1.wordpress.com