Luke Thompson

Department: English
Discipline: English

Project Summary

Jack Clemo: A Literary Biography. Jack Clemo was born in 1916 into a clay-mining community near St Austell. He was often defined by his disabilities in reviews and articles, trouble with his eyes beginning as a young child and ending in complete white blindness when aged 39. Similarly, his hearing began to fail, starting in his late teens and worsening through his twenties until deafness too overcame him. I say 'overcame', but this was not the view of Clemo himself. A deeply religious man, Clemo believed that his physical decline was an assault by God preparing him for his role as a kind of 'bridgehead' between God and other people. His disabilities were divine. Clemo's first novel was 'Wilding Graft', published in 1948 and quickly followed by the autobiography 'Confession of a Rebel' in 1949. His next published work was a collection of poetry, 'The Clay Verge', in 1951, which was later incorporated into the better known 'The Map of Clay'. After his disabilities had taken firm grips Clemo published mainly poetry, being of a length that he could compose and revise in his head, though he also wrote a 'spiritual manifesto' and reworked Cornish dialect stories and novels from his youth into publishable pieces. In Cornwall Jack Clemo remains fairly well known, but for various reasons his reputation 'abroad' has diminished. It is a part of the intention of this PhD to draw attention once again to this fascinating and unusual poet through a study of his work and life.

Supervisory Team

Tim Kendall and Nick Groom

Wider Research Interests

Recently I have been researching many aspects of our relationship with the night and darkness, including the literature, history and psychology of the night. Also I have an interest in short fiction, and have published stories and flash fictions in literary magazines, journals and anthologies.