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Ifor Thomas

Body Beautiful

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The subject matter of this book could hardly be more sobering - it chronicles the poet's experience of being diagnosed with prostate cancer, of undergoing surgery and then of entering recovery. The book's title, although taken from one of the few poems in the collection which are not about cancer, nonetheless summarises how many people will feel towards a disease which is regarded with dread. As might be expected, much if the material is unsettling, poignant and chilling, and yet the poet's characteristic humour - very black on occasions - is displayed frequently. The poems are, with very few exceptions, of a uniformly high standard, with Thomas' trademark irony employed to illuminate some very dark experiences. Yet one should not believe that the sombre subject matter is approached with superficial levity: many of the poems are plain and unsparing in their bleakness, although shot through with humanity. There are poems which can chill to the bone as well as ones which can make the reader laugh out loud, sometimes on the same page. To provoke such diverse responses is no mean achievement. The entire work is effecting, informative and thought provoking. This is an important volume dealing with a subject many readers will find compelling. While treating the subject seriously, it manages to do so with an engaging wit, memorable imagistic ability, clear human sympathy and commendable absence of self pity. A truly great work of art.