Saturday, April 29, 2006

Charles Jones - Epitaph for a Poet


What better way to begin a blog than with an epitaph.

Charles Jones (1906-98) was a poet-crank who once stalked the streets of Merthyr Tydfil thrusting poems into the hands of passers-by. He did this for 45 years. The words he wrote were literary grenades aimed mostly at Welsh politicians and the various sacred cows of Welsh culture.

Frequently physically attacked Jones was said to carry a knuckleduster in his pocket ready to fend off his more belligerent critics.

His misdemeanours are legendary. At one Eisteddfod he sold anti-Eisteddfod poems to punters who thought they were buying the official programme. In 1966 Merthyr Council took it upon themselves to publish a collection of his work entitled The Challenger at a cost of £150. The following morning Jones was out on the street vehemently denouncing them for abusing taxpayers' money.

Recently I managed to get hold of a copy of this mythical book and was delighted to see it carried a portrait of him on its front cover. The 41 poems contained within are a mixed bag - the best of them showing a concern for the environment. The final poem is called Poet's Epitaph.

Poet's Epitaph

Near the sky;
Where the four seasons are won't to gather,
In the soft breath of a mist
Lay me on the top of a tall mountain,
And in the round ring of dawning
Lay my head in the coming
My bare feet in the fall -
Lay me where the West Winds call the wild birds
And the Moon and the Stars understand
And in the warmth of the Sun's smile
lay me and leave me.


2 Comments:

Anonymous Grahame Davies said...

Amazing. I knew Charles Jones when I worked on the South Wales Echo in the late 1980s. He'd haunt the front office, bringing in half-baked rumours of stories and insisting firstly that you write them and secondly - and most importantly to him - that you quoted him: '"Charles Jones, the Merthyr writer. Have you got that? Charles Jones, the Merthyr writer."' He seemed to live in hope of being cited like that. It was probably a kind of substitute for the literary recognition he craved. The stories never stood up, so he never got quoted by me. I remember him giving me a copy of one of his recent self-published books, and I recall thinking the work was an overblown, undisciplined imitation of Dylan Thomas. None of it was good. Most of it was awful. But reading the piece quoted here, which is better, makes me think that there might have been a talent there that could have developed had he been willing to listen to criticism. But, in my experience of him, listening wasn't something Charles Jones was very good at. . .

7:26 PM  
Blogger Anthony Brockway said...

Hiya Grahame. That's brilliant - you've met everyone!

I have to admit that until recently I'd never even heard of him. Saw a reference to him in a book of eccentrics and tracked down 'The Challenger'. The foreword is by Keidrich Rhys, no less.

There's definitely a lot of filler in the book. One or two good poems about the environment and quite a lot of old fashioned stuff.

Apparently his middle name was Horace which is what everyone in Merthyr called him. It was his rebellious attitude that appealed to me - and his striking Terry Thomas-esque photo.

9:12 PM  

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