Jack Clemo 1916-55: The Rise and Fall of the ‘Clay Phoenix’
Thompson, Luke Adam
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
Publishing commitment. Clay Phoenix being published May 2016.
Jack Clemo was a poet, novelist, autobiographer, short story writer and Christian witness, whose life spanned much of the twentieth century (1916-1994). He composed some of the most extraordinary landscape poetry of the twentieth century, much of it set in his native China Clay mining region around St Austell in Cornwall, where he lived for the majority of his life. Clemo’s upbringing was one of privation and poverty and he was famously deaf and blind for much of his adult life. In spite of Clemo’s popularity as a poet, there has been very little written about him, and his confessional self-interpretation in his autobiographical works has remained unchallenged. This thesis looks at Clemo’s life and writing until the mid-1950s, holding the vast, newly available and (to date) unstudied archive of manuscripts up against the published material and exploring the contrary narratives of progressive disease and literary development and success. When Clemo wrote his own biography, he interpreted the events of his life as though they were a part of a predestined pattern established by God, plotting a course that gave his life special meaning. But as well as moulding events into a particular narrative, Clemo omitted some key features of his biography, including the cause of his disabilities. This thesis, a detailed study of Jack Clemo’s life and writing, returns to the original source material to reconsider this self-interpretation and justification, and to establish some of the details Clemo and his family sought to censor.
PhD in English