Jack Clemo's vocation to evangelical poetry and erotic marriage : an examination of his poems of personal tribute and critique.
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Martin, Heather R. (Heather Rattray)
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Jack Clemo, whose dates are 1916-1994, calls to us from the margins: a working-class voice from deep within in the china clayworks of Cornwall, having been educated outside the conventional system, contending with deafness and blindness for most of his life; a believer whose fierce Evangelical non-conformist religiosity was at odds with an increasingly secularized Britain; a poet who, insisting that his art serve God no less than the world, embraced the erotic as a necessary component of Christian faith and life; and thus a man whose yearning for both marital and poetic companionship is as heartfelt as it is unyielding. Clemo believed he had a divine calling to be an evangelical poet and a married man: a dual vocation that seemed impossible given his physical, social, and educational limits. In the process of fulfilling that vocation, which he did despite poverty, blindness, and deafness, his poetry often "gives testimony" through the varied artistic and spiritual influences he encountered. These portrait poems and dramatic monologues generally fall into three categories: theologians and preachers, saints and missionaries, and artists and writers. For Clemo, these testimony poems document the verity of the Christian faith that he both aspired to and lived by. The predominant themes that connect these poems are evangelism and marriage, reflecting Clemo's concern with fulfilling his twin vocation. This dissertation concentrates on how Jack Clemo's quest to fulfill his vocation intersects with his dramatic monologues and portrait poems, demonstrating that his aspirations shaped these poems and in turn that these poems helped Clemo to imagine and define what it means to be an evangelical poet and a priest of erotic marriage. He did so by constantly testing his voice against others, writing himself into their lifeworld and allowing them to inhabit his poems. His portraits of actual personages also provide concrete expression of Clemo's evangelical witness to the "good news" and the redemptive possibilities of a Christ-centered marriage. Moreover, these figures, whether they affirmed, challenged, or revised Clemo's vision, offered the poet a way to interact with the world through an artistry of encounter, dialog and imagined community.