I'm reading Byron Rogers' new (2006) biography of R.S. Thomas, and though I've not quite reached the end and want to say more about the book as a biography, I've just read a fascinating, and to me exciting, section where Thomas is quoted on the development of his writing style during his last ministry in Aberdaron, where, as Thomas said, "My poetry underwent a change of style"..."I broke up the lines..." He mentioned in a letter "some people ...still nit-picking about my so-called lack of form"and goes on :"I wish they'd catch up."
His explanation of what he was about makes an immediate impression on me. "When I write, I'm listening with an inner ear to the way it sounds. I build the poem up like that. And if there's a word too many, it goes into the next line. But the thing is that I never really wrote them to be read out loud. There's a contradiction here: they may look artificial on the page, but they must sound right..."
The reason for my excitement about this? Ever since the Chrismas holiday of 1987, when, charged with making up the Practical Criticism paper for the Higher English Prelim exam, I chose Thomas' poem "Evans" as the text, I have been an avid reader of his poetry. Analysing that one poem in order to set questions on it drew me into a world where I felt at home, and influenced the style in which I would begin to write seriously. I didn't think about it at the time, but if you immerse yourself sufficiently in a poet's work, it obviously has an effect. And years later, when people had begun to read my stuff, I was asked why I used enjambement in the way I did.
My answer reflected, I now learn, the reaction of Byron Rogers to Thomas' poems: the run-overs (as he calls them) allow you to emphasise the words which come at the beginning of a line. Because I had no teacher, no mentor with me to discuss my writing, I felt shaken in this knowledge when others - including Edwin Morgan - asked me if this was something I really wanted to do. The implied answer was usually "no" - and for a while I have dabbled with metre and rhythm in a way which irritates me. Suddenly, I feel liberated.
Why am I writing this now? Because it pleases me to record it. An epiphany on the eve of Epiphany. And I'll be back on R.S.T. later .....