Edward Thomas volunteered when he was 37 years old and a father of three and was killed, as an artillery officer, during the first hour of the Arras offensive, on April 9th, 1917. In the two years before his death, he wrote the 144 poems which ensured a place for him among the poets of his generation. Though all his poems had been written “under storm’s wing”, Thomas was not a war poet in the sense that Owen, Sassoon or Rosenberg were war poets. Before he turned to poetry in December 1914, he had written and published about thirty prose books of different kinds: country books and nature studies, literary biographies and travel accounts, several short stories, one autobiographical novel and one autobiographical fragment. He was also a reviewer of contemporary poetry, literary editor and anthologist. There is a popular notion that Thomas’s friendship with the American poet Robert Frost “made him” a poet; an equally mistaken view places Thomas among the Georgian poets, while at the same time it fails to mention the powerful impact of the poetry of William Butler Yeats and Thomas Hardy.
Edward Thomas: A Mirror of England surveys the whole of Edward Thomas’s achievement, not only in verse, explaining the ways in which Thomas’s poetry continues to appeal to new generations of readers, while exerting great influence on new generations of poets. Wiśniewski discusses Thomas’s place in the “English line” of 20th century poetry, stemming from Thomas Hardy; he sheds new light on the literary friendship between Thomas and Robert Frost; he analyzes his nature books and provides new assessment of his role as critic. Wiśniewski argues against those who insist on placing Thomas’s poetry in the context of Georgian poetry, and in doing so provides new interpretations of well-known poems by Thomas. The book fully discusses the role the Great War played in making Thomas a poet and in a final chapter focuses on the best known poems by Thomas. Almost thirty years after Andrew Motion’s study, The Poetry of Edward Thomas, A Mirror of England offers a fresh and timely reappraisal of one of England’s major poets. With scholarly thoroughness and lucidity Wiśniewski reveals an accessible and complex poet in ways which will bring Edward Thomas once again to whoever is interested in poetry.