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Writing in Education, issue 79 (Winter 2019), p. 64.
Michael Thomas is no stranger to poetry and The Stations
of The Day, his most recent collection, beautifully
captures life and all its complexities—so much so that
his work transports readers to places in the past, both
tangible and abstract, and this is what makes his writing
so distinct and memorable.
One of the early poems in the collection, ‘Almost’,
evokes that time near the end of school terms with the
‘fidget-arsed nativities’ and ‘the angels who got into
first position’. Thomas creates a world where readers are
forced to recollect those days, perhaps decades ago but
still firmly imprinted on the mind.
‘Two in a Seizure’, the closing poem in the book’s
second section, is rooted at the time of the new
millennium rolling around, back in 1999. A father-son
relationship and all its intensity is examined here,
including avoiding eye contact and all this suggests,
to the realization that so much has gone unsaid when
perhaps it should not. Memories, again, but a world
apart from some of Thomas’s earlier work.
A strong sense of place is evident in ‘Where Nothing’s
Asked or Thieved…’ –from places as disparate as Nova
Scotia, in Canada, a country where Thomas lived for
several years, to Worcestershire, where he lives now. In
‘Ashchurch For Tewkesbury’, the heat is almost palpable,
with the ‘barns burning’ and the passengers who have
‘flame/about their eyes’. Maybe this takes us back to an
all-too-familiar situation, of a train alighting at a station,
with travellers boarding and disembarking. Similarly,
perhaps, in ‘Saturday Evening Houses In Summer’,
the focus on sensory detail is evident again, with ‘the
upstairs perfumes’ and the recognizable energy of getting
ready for a night out. Thomas writes about ‘Rhyl’ as
well as ‘Bangalore’, now known as Bengaluru—places
so different but perhaps this is the point: place is often
a state of mind. It doesn’t necessarily matter where you
are, geographically or physically. It’s everything else
that’s going on there that counts. In ‘Unmapped’ and
‘Old Vimto’, such diversity continues, transporting
readers to yesteryear.
The final section in the collection, ‘Motley Futures…’,
nears the end with the delightful homage to Shakespeare
in ‘Feste Packs’, inspired by ‘Twelfth Night’. Thomas
takes us through the many comedic elements of the
play, from the despicable behaviour of Sir Toby Belch, to
Maria’s debauchery and, later, Sir Andrew Aguecheek’s
‘lanky shadow’. Thomas’ final poem, ‘Come With Me’,
invites readers to start over each day with a new mindset.
In our modern times, which are arguably troubled,
beginning a new day with ‘fresh magic on the wind / the
world at your door starting over’ is a beautiful closing
line—a worthy image to remember, not only for our own
wellbeing, but to remind ourselves of Michael Thomas’s
sensitivity—something which is a key marker of this
body of work, his seventh poetry collection.
Review by Matthew Tett
Matthew Tett is a freelance writer and educator, living and
working in Wiltshire. He is also NAWE’s Reviews Editor.
Matthew has a Masters in the Teaching and Practice of
Creative Writing from Cardiff University. He is currently
working on a collection of short stories.
Review published by The Writers’ Corner
Michael W. Thomas, The Stations of the Day
In this, his tenth title, Michael W. Thomas again justifies Alison Brackenbury’s commendation of his work:
‘His poems are rich with the details of past and present lives. They explore the wildest possibilities of those lives with passion and humour.’
The Stations of the Day is in fact a book of mini-collections, with titles as diverse as ‘When You Were Young’, ‘Where Nothing’s Asked Or Thieved’ and ‘Motley Futures.’ Within these and others, using a striking variety of forms and voices, Thomas’s poetry ranges back and forth in time, place and emotion. Here we find the English Black Country when it was still industrial; there we find Feste from Twelfth Night, who confides what Shakespeare did not record. Now we have nature and peace in our grasp at a country crossroads on Christmas Day; now we land on College Drive, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, as drivers and wanderers chart their routes from one station of the day to the next. Elsewhere, children of the future laugh like drains at the yammer-drug that is social media in our time; while one small boy, confined to a barber’s chair at the end of autumn 1960, senses time’s flow and wonders what on earth it can possibly lead to. In this, among Thomas’s speakers and characters, he is far from alone.
Arresting in language, sharp in perspective, The Stations of the Day invites and rewards reading and reading again.
‘Michael W. Thomas’s poetry shows a real sense of exploration and discrimination of fine states of feeling…. Thomas cuts away all dead weight, creating a sense of economy with richness, and is not afraid of using a phrase that in a lesser craftsman’s hands would bring a sneer…. His language is vigorous and street-wise and his poetic tools work on experience in Coleridgean mode, dissolving, diffusing, dissipating in order to create a surprising world.’
–Peter de Ville, Poetry Salzburg Review.
October 25, 2019 by Michael Bartholomew-Biggs
Merryn Williams casts an eye over a new collection by Michael W Thomas
Although this is a very recent collection, the sequence ‘When you were Young’ takes us back to the 1960s, a Catholic upbringing, and school English lessons where children were taught about skylarks, foreign fields and the Charge of the Light Brigade. That’s what a whole generation thought poetry was. It doesn’t appeal to Michael Thomas, whose work is distinctively modern. To demonstrate this I can’t do better than quote the whole of ‘Harbours Hill’, with its shock opening:
One day I shall return to Harbours Hill and die. On its only street cambered, gritted the colour of headache, against the fall of January stars I shall let my eyes roll back to see what my mind makes of the last quaint shuffle of life …. having looked in the window of the village’s one shop, how it gathers little marvels of winter light on stuff it never sells …. having walked the greenish length of the path beside the unattended church to see the berries drowse in their blood between the railing-spikes…. having stood in the church itself In case the breathing dust should work loose a word from a long-immured prayer. On the only street at the mouth of the path I shall set like a tumbler, my bones brewing a forward roll so when it comes I fold soundlessly, ball up where the railings meet scarps of moss. Mulch to mulch preserved a while as a randomness of sockets till the grasses of spring fill my eyes, lush over the whitened nooks in which a passenger spirit might once have bided its time.
This is a powerful poem which speaks, if I understand it rightly, about the loss of religion and a deadly boring childhood.
In the last but one section, ‘Endpapers’, Thomas contemplates, ‘the slowing of your blood’. ‘Time’s clock’ ‘flips back to zero’. We’re all getting older, and the future may be frightening, but the poet can still derive pleasure from the sight of a child being pushed in a buggy.
There are several very melancholy poems here, but Thomas is actually an amusing writer, and concludes with a sequence, ‘Feste Packs’ which gives a new slant on the cast of Twelfth Night.
Here’s a link to an interview with Alan Kurly McGeachie click here
Michael Wyndham Thomas is an Irish-British writer and lived in Canada for a number of years. He now lives in Worcestershire. He is an internationally-known poet, fiction-writer, dramatist and musician. His poetry, prose and scripts have appeared in Critical Survey, English, The English Review, Fire, The Interpreter’s House, Iron, The London Magazine, Other Poetry, Pennine Platform, Stand, Staple and The Swansea Review (UK), as well as Poetry Salzburg Review and The National Gazette (Tirana), Alive!, From the Horse’s Mouth, Grain and Reflections (Canada), Etchings (Australia),The Black Mountain Review and Irish University Review (Ireland) and The Antioch Review, Magazine Six, Modern Haiku, Muscadine Lines and The Secret of Salt (USA). He also reviews for Other Poetry (Durham, UK), Poetry Nottingham (UK), Under The Radar (Rugby, UK) and The Journal of American Haiku (Toronto). His most recent reviews have appeared in The London Magazine and the TLS.
Since April, 2004, Michael has been poet-in-residence at the annual Robert Frost Poetry Festival, Key West, Florida. In consequence, he is Poet-at-Large in the Navy of the Conch Republic of Key West. Other events outside the UK include readings at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada; at Linnaeus University, Sweden; and at Tampere University, Finland. Michael has also given featured readings at the Ledbury Poetry Festival, at the Birmingham States of Independence Festival and at the Ways With Words Festival, Dartington Hall.
He is available for readings, workshops and seminars on both the practice and the theory of writing.
Michael W. Thomas: Bibliography:
The Mercury Annual (TQF / Theaker’s Paperback Library, 2009)
Pilgrims at the White Horizon (TQF / Theaker’s Paperback Library, 2013)
The Portswick Imp: Collected Stories, 2001-2016 (Black Pear Press, 2018)
God’s Machynlleth and Other Poems (Flarestack, 1996)
Port Winston Mulberry (Littlejohn and Bray, 2009)
Batman’s Hill, South Staffs (Flipped Eye International, 2013)
The Girl from Midfoxfields (Black Pear Press, 2014)
Come To Pass (Oversteps Books, 2014)
Early and Late (Cairn Time Press, 2018)
Featured in Polly Stretton, ed, The Unremembered: World War One’s Army of Workers, The British Story (Black Pear Press, 2018)
The Stations of the Day (Black Pear Press, 2019)
Assumption Eve (Worcester Commandery, 2000)
FAQ (The Progress Theatre Festival, Reading, 2009, and the Shoebox Theatre Company, Staffordshire, 2011)
When? (The Blue Orange Theatre, Birmingham [Shoebox Theatre Company], 2011)
Esp. Shortlisted for the UK Novella Award (2015)