Books: Pick of the week

Click to follow
"There is no present in Wales,/And no future;/ There is only the past,/ Brittle with relics," RS Thomas (right) has famously written, in his poem "Welsh Landscape".

Between Sea & Sky, a new book of photographs by Peter Hope Jones, is in its own way another Welsh reliquary - a finely worked shrine in which to display precious fragments from Thomas's poetic past.

On Tuesday, Thomas gets together with Hope Jones in Bangor to give a rare public reading, against a backdrop of slides from the book.

It's extraordinary to think that, now aged 85, Thomas was born a year before Dylan Thomas, who died more than 45 years ago. For many years Britain's continuing hope for the Nobel Prize, Thomas is still in fine, if frail fettle, delivering his great sonorous poems in an all-enveloping surge of brooding ferment.

In Between Sea & Sky, Thomas's resonant thunder has been distilled to brief epigrammatic snatches, as stray unsentimental phrases are plucked from the poems to accompany bleak photographs of the far western isle of Bardsey. An island as stern and craggy as Thomas himself, Bardsey lays claim to being Merlin's final resting place, the site of King Arthur's Avalon. Known as the Island of 20,000 Saints, this windswept spot, a pious place of pilgrimage in the Dark Ages and now dotted with lichen-covered abbey ruins, looks out over the harsh grey waters of an unforgiving sea. As Thomas says, "There are places, where you might have been sent/To learn patience."

In a lighter vein, two of Britain's best comic poets read on London's South Bank on Thursday. The towering lanky figure of Kit Wright is well-known to children, but his jauntily ingenious underdog poems are shamefully under-known to adults. Wright reads with cynically deadpan young Mancunian Sophie Hannah, who writes with devastating accuracy about the contemporary traumas of driving tests, disintegrating trainers and inauspicious relationships.

`Between Sea & Sky: Images of Bardsey' is published by Gomer Press, pounds 9.95

RS Thomas and Peter Hope Jones, University College Wales, Bangor (01559 362371) Tue, 7.30pm

Sophie Hannah and Kit Wright, Voice Box, Royal Festival Hall, London SE1 (0171-960 4242) Thur, 7.30pm