‘His energy, inventiveness and human sympathy make him one of the most exciting poets of his generation.’ – Merryn Williams
From the Fortunate Isles: New and Selected Poems features poems from ten of Tony Curtis's published collections, as well as a substantial number of new poems. This is a poet whose themes and variations remain consistent: a deep affection for his roots in West Wales, tender attachments to family, a profound interest in the wars of the last century, and an abiding fascination for all art forms, particularly painting and poetry.
As we might expect from the author of a number of astute and widely praised critical volumes on Welsh Art, many of these poems are often inspired by artists from Wales, poets such as Dannie Abse, Dylan Thomas, John Tripp and painters like Peter Prendergast, Augustus and Gwen John, although European and American artists like Otto Dix and Andrew Wyeth also feature. There is also a brief selection from his collaborative book/performance project with the New York-based artist John Digby: The Arches, with reproductions of the original collages and their accompanying poems.
Another abiding concern is a fascination with war in all of its manifestations in the bloody 20th century. From his collection ‘War Voices’ we have poems like ‘The Front’ and his National Poetry Prize-winning ‘The Death of Richard Beattie-Seaman in the Belgian Grand Prix, 1939’ – which eerily foreshadows the fate of many young men in the European conflict about to erupt. The contemplation of War adds a dark thread of serious intent to this tapestry of Wales in the more peaceful times our generation has had the privilege of living through in ‘The Fortunate Isles’.
Landscapes in Wales also recur throughout the book. Pembrokeshire is a literal and figurative touchstone, from the elegiac ‘The Visit’:
Forgetting flowers, this time
I take a Manorbier pebble
from the car
and, in the ancient way,
lay it on your grave:
my seal-grey limestone on your green slate.
This is a beautiful, engaging and important collection from one of Wales’s best poets.