R S Thomas nominated for Nobel prize

R S THOMAS, the cantankerous clergyman who is Wales's most important living poet, is being nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature by powerful figures in the British literary establishment.

The 82-year-old cleric, who has spent his life working in remoteparishes, remains almost unknown to the public because of his obsessive privacy and dislike of people. His candidacy is being supported by Lord Gowrie, chairman of the Arts Council of England, Tony Bianchi, literature director of the Arts Council of Wales, and Kevin Thomas, director of the prestigious Welsh Academy.

Lord Gowrie said: "He has a forbidding exterior, but it is extraordinary how simple and communicable his poems are. At first sight they seem almost naive. Then you look again and you see the skill and timing and rhythms of the writing. I'm thrilled to be associated with the campaign to get him nominated."

Nominations for the pounds 630,000 prize, are restricted to writers' groups, professors of English, bodies such as the Arts Council, or past Nobel winners. Thomas's will be made by the Welsh Academy with the support of last year's winner, Kenzaburo Oe, who was bowled over by Thomas's writing.

Thomas is thought to stand a good chance of winning. If he does win, he will be the least well-known author writing in English to have done so.

Thomas is an ardent Welsh nationalist who learnt to speak Welsh - English is his first language - although he has never managed to write in it. His poetry is based on his religious faith, but he does not shrink from portraying his parishioners as sullen, miserly and mean-spirited, and faith in God as often absent.

He refused initially to agree to be nominated before yielding grudgingly on condition that if he won he could make his acceptance speech in his beloved Welsh.

"He is very lukewarm about it," admits Mr Thomas of the Welsh Academy. "I was sitting three rows behind him when somebody first told him what we were doing and he was shaking his head violently. When it was next mentioned, he agreed as long as he could make his acceptance speech in Welsh. It was impossible to say whether he was joking or not because he's so sphinx-like."

Last week the poet was a little more forthcoming. "I don't know anything about the mechanics of the business, but one can only be grateful if anybody thinks you're worth putting up," he said. "It's sort of local boy made good and I imagine that all over the world there are minorities putting up their champions."

In a rare interview with the Independent on Sunday last year, he described his poetry as merely "all right" and said it was "quite immaterial" to him whether he was remembered after his death. "My ambition has been to make poetry out of experience - mine has been particularly narrow."

This month, his latest collection of poems, No Truce with the Furies, is published by Bloodaxe Books. Philip Gwyn Jones, who recently commissioned Justin Wintle to write a biography of Thomas for HarperCollins, said: "He's an unpredictable man."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Management Accountant / Analyst (CIMA finalist/newly qualified)

£32000 - £38000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Management Accountant / F...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - .NET

£27000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of a mark...

Recruitment Genius: Help Desk Specialist

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides Reliabili...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Managing Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of refrigeration, mechan...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor