I was watching a Rick Stein program tonight and he mentioned the poet Jack Clemo – I am not really a reader of poetry, but after hearing a few lines I was drawn to find out more about this poet.
Jack Clemo was born in Goonamarris. Jack was educated locally in the village school and concentrated on his poetry, while he lived in poverty with his widowed mother. He lost his hearing and sight by 1955, the scenes of the Clay Country became his symbols for mystical and religious experiences.
The Clay-Tip Worker
Each day a few more flowers are killed,
A few more mossy hollows filled
With gravel. Like a clutching hand
The refuse moves against the dower,
The flaunting pride and power
Of springtide beauty menacing the sod;
And it is joy to me
To lengthen thus a finger of God
That wars with Poetry. […]
I love to see the sand I tip
Muzzle the grass and burst the daisy heads.
I watch the hard waves lapping out to still
The soil’s rhythm for ever, and I thrill
With solitary song upon my lip,
Exulting as the refuse spreads:
“Praise god, the earth is maimed,
And there will be no daisies in that field
Next spring; it will not yield
A single bloom or grass blade: I shall see
In symbol potently
Christ’s Kingdom there restored:
One patch of Poetry reclaimed
By Dogma: one more triumph for our Lord.”
The Flooded Clay-Pit
These white crags
Cup waves that rub more greedily
Now half-way up the chasm; you see
Doomed foliage hang like rags;
The whole clay-belly sags.
What scenes far
Beneath those waters: chimney-pots
That used to smoke; brown rusty clots
Of wheels still oozing tar;
Lodge doors that rot ajar.
Those iron rails
Emerge like claws cut short on the dump,
Though once they bore the waggon’s thump:
Now only toads and snails
Creep round their loosened nails.
Those thin tips
Of massive pit-bed pillars – how
They strain to scab the pool’s face now,
Pressing like famished lips
Which dread the cold eclipse.
- Keeping Poets Alive: Why You Should Know About Jack Clemo
- POETS OF THE CLAY COUNTRY: Jack Clemo
- Belfast Book Festival 2015