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Harry Thomas

Page by: Profile Editorial Team, 08/06/2024

Harry Thomas (5th December 1937 – 9th December 1967) was an English poet and part of the 1960’s British Poetry Revival, a modernist inspired reaction to the conservative poetry of post-Edwardian Britain. In 1967 he was described by the Ambit magazine as ‘one of the most prominent of the new British poets’ and had work published in The Trans-Atlantic Review (1),The Critical Quarterly (2), Chelsea (3),  The  Ambit(4) , Penguin Poetry and The Poetry Review (5).

His most famous poem, ‘My Soul’(6) was published in The New Statesman in February 1966.

My Soul

“…And if the body were not the soul, what is the soul?” (Walt Whitman – Children of Adam)

One time I used

To think of the soul

As round and smooth,

Like a sea-sucked pebble.

Then it was a green glow

The size of a sixpence,

This turned out to be the red sun

Cold on a skating scene calendar.

Then I was a little older

And my body mattered,

My soul had to be my flesh.

So I appointed my navel;

Now that small hollow was my soul.

For years it was so,

A fleshy little dip

To be cleaned of fluff,

And, once or twice, I let it stink,

My private little pit, my soul.

Still (though I raise the images)

I try to describe my soul,

Try to make it beautiful by metaphor,

Try flowers, and stars, and sea-spray,

But always I come back to my childhood

My soul is

The choice between a pebble

A cardboard sun

And a belly-button.


Early Life

Thomas was born in Sutton Manor, St.Helens, Lancashire, to John Thomas, a coal-miner and Maud (Swift) Thomas. His mother died when Harry was aged three an event which was later to be recollected in ‘That Christmas’ (1965).(7)

After leaving Robins Lane Secondary School in 1952, Thomas was employed as a ‘weigh-man’ at Sutton Manor Colliery. After a short period of military service, he qualified as a Registered Psychiatric Nurse working at Rainhill Psychiatric Hospital, on the outskirts of Liverpool. This was the inspiration for much of his work including ‘I Have a Message’ and ‘Visiting Day’(8). After retraining in 1966 to become an English Teacher (employed at Fairfield Secondary School in Widnes, Cheshire), Harry Thomas died in December 1967 as the result of an accident. He was thirty years old. His death is referred to in the autobiography This Pearl, America by Francis J. McGovern (9).

Personal Life

In 1961, Thomas married Mary Eileen Clarke, and they had two children – Mark (b.1963) and Joanna (b.1967).



  1. Thomas, H. (1968). “I HAVE A MESSAGE”. The Transatlantic Review28, pp.139–141.
  2. Thomas, Henry. “The Show.”The Critical Quarterly no 7, 1965
  3. Thomas, Henry. “Suicide.” Chelsea, no. 22 & 23, June 1968. JSTOR, Accessed 15 Sep. 2022.


  1. Thomas, Henry. “For Old Ralph.” Ambit, no. 31, 1966, pp. 22–22. JSTOR,  Accessed 15 Sep. 2022.
  2. Thomas, Henry (Autumn 1968). “From the Forest”. The Poetry Review Volume: 59, No. 3 pp 168

Thomas, Henry ( 1968). “Little Drummer Boy”. The Poetry Review Volume: 59, No. 3 pp 169

  1. Thomas, Henry. “My Soul.” The New Statesman, 11th February 1966, pp. 196.  Accessed 15 Sep. 2022.
  2. That Christmas (1965)

Perhaps it is not her scarf;

I dare not touch it,

Perhaps it is an old rag

Blown from anywhere.


We remembered lying here,

Laughing in thick grass;

We came back in December

to remember that past


That Christmas was the last,

Those sorry bells warned us

But we did not listen,

We ran laughing in the frost:


Later there was snow,

Soft as her breast and silent,

It came without joy,

Silent in the night


And in the morning, that morning,

She would not speak to me

She would not listen;

Only my voice was loud


Loud in her hair

Still scented with frost,

My words were hopeless;

She could not speak.


That scarf was her scarf,

I’m sure of that now,

Frozen stiff as a stick

In the sharp mud.


  1. Visiting Day (1966)


If the visitor,

with her smile of awe and hope

and bag of moist fruit,

if she dared to snatch back the sheets?


She would see the bandages,

gagging the truth,

she would smell the dying,

she would know that we,

for all our cunning,

can’t do anything to stop the rot.


But we will keep on play-acting,

we will make sure that he is clean

and the stench is sprayed away,

we will make it easier for her ,


We will fix bright flowers in our hair,

paint wizard’s symbols on smooth cylinders

polish their caps of chrome clocks,

everything to reassure her.


But what kills,

what makes us want to laugh

is the packet of woodbines

pressed on us in gratitude.


We know these corridors,

they are sinister,

never mind the sweet pure smell.



  1. McGovern, Francis J (2001). This Pearl America. California Publishing Company. San Francisco pp.98 ISBN 0-940471-71-X


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