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T. H. Jones - Poet of Exile
P. Bernard Jones, Don Dale-Jones
ISBN: 9780708317075 (0708317073)Dyddiad Cyhoeddi Medi 2001
Cyhoeddwr: Gwasg Prifysgol Cymru / University of Wales Press, Caerdydd
Fformat: Clawr Meddal, 216x138 mm, 348 tudalen Iaith: Saesneg Allan o brint Ein Pris: £17.99   
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Ysgrifennwch Adolygiad Cwsmer
Bywgraffiad y bardd Eingl-Gymreig T.H. Jones (Thomas Henry Jones, 1921-1965), yn cyflwyno astudiaeth dreiddgar sy'n tynnu'n helaeth o ffynonellau hunangofiannol anghyhoeddedig a chyfweliadau gyda chydnabod er mwyn gosod gwaith y bardd o fewn ei gyd-destun cymdeithasol a diwylliannol.

The biography of the Anglo-Welsh poet T.H. Jones (Thomas Henry Jones, 1921-1965), presenting a perceptive study which draws extensively on unpublished autobiographical sources and interviews with acquaintances to locate the poet's work in its social and cultural context.
This is a critical biography of the poet T.H. Jones (1921-65). It traces his life from a childhood of rural working-class poverty in Breconshire, through formative years at the grammar school in Builth and college in Aberystwyth (interrupted by war service in the Navy). T.H. Jones began writing poetry early and, fiercely intelligent, he tried to combine this with an academic career. However, a First in English and an MA weren’t enough to secure him a position, and after several years of frustration teaching in Portsmouth, he emigrated with his wife and daughters to Australia to take up a post at the recently expanded University of Newcastle. Jones was a charismatic teacher, but serious problems with alcohol caused his life to start unravelling and he was found drowned in unexplained circumstances in 1965, aged 44.

At the time of his death, T.H. Jones had published three collections of poetry with Rupert Hart-Davis in London. Many more poems remained unpublished, carefully written out in the ‘Black Book’ where he kept all the poems he thought worth preserving. A Collected Poems appeared in 1977.

T.H. Jones was in many ways an unlucky writer. He emigrated to Australia just as he was making a modest reputation in English literary circles; but exile meant that he never really gained a foothold in the burgeoning Anglo-Welsh literary scene in the 1960s, and his early death deprived him of a lasting reputation in Australia. This biography is an attempt to set the record straight and to reassess Jones as a major Welsh writer in English – ‘one of the defining poets, alongside Dylan and R.S. Thomas, of mid-twentieth century Welsh culture . . .’

There are two problems with this interpretation. One is the authors’ attempt to package Jones as a proto-postmodernist, which seems at once anachronistic and an unnecessary nod towards an academic fashion which is fast approaching its sell-by date. The other is that, although he was a genuine poet (which is rare enough), T.H. Jones was too prone to influences which he rarely succeeded in integrating into a coherent style of his own. At various times these included Yeats, Graves, Auden, Blake, Stevens, Lowell and Dylan Thomas. Too often the authors give Jones the benefit of the doubt here. The poem ‘The enemy in the heart’, for example, is praised as ‘a bardic performance in competition with Dylan Thomas’. But Thomas, more often than not, is a disastrous model, and Jones’s poem, replete with ‘towered and toppling waves’, ‘sea-green betrayals’ and the ‘foul vulture of the heart’ is more like a Thomas pastiche. Too much of the poetry suffers in this way.

The biography is nevertheless a fascinating and deserved account of a man whose inner demons and loving but ambiguous attitude to Wales make him a quintessential Anglo-Welsh poet of his time.

John Barnie

It is possible to use this review for promotional purposes, but the following acknowledgment should be included: A review from www.gwales.com, with the permission of the Welsh Books Council.

Gellir defnyddio'r adolygiad hwn at bwrpas hybu, ond gofynnir i chi gynnwys y gydnabyddiaeth ganlynol: Adolygiad oddi ar www.gwales.com, trwy ganiatâd Cyngor Llyfrau Cymru.
Gwybodaeth Bellach:
T. H. Jones (1921–1965) achieved little recognition in Wales or Britain during his lifetime. After publishing his first volume of poetry in 1957, he emigrated to Australia, where his career as a poet and lecturer came to a sadly premature end when he was accidentally drowned.
T. H. Jones: Poet of Exile is the first literary biography of an undervalued writer who, the authors suggest, should be thought of as one of the defining poets of mid- twentieth century Welsh culture, alongside Dylan and R. S. Thomas. This perceptive study locates Jones in his social and cultural contexts and demonstrates his considerable achievement as a transitional figure in the development of ‘Anglo-Welsh’ poetry.
The authors draw extensively on unpublished sources, such as Jones’s extraordinary hand-written Black Book which contains nearly all his poems in chronological order, and on interviews with those closest to Jones. It is a valuable record of a writer important both because of the poetry he wrote and because of what his life has so powerfully to reveal to us about his culture, his period and his place.
P. Bernard Jones is a family friend and teacher, whose Ph.D. was on the life and work of T. H. Jones. Don Dale-Jones is a free-lance teacher and writer and former senior lecturer at Trinity College Carmarthen. He has published widely on Welsh writing in English and is the co-editor of T. H. Jones’s Collected Poems.
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