T. H. Jones achieved little recognition in Wales or Britain during his lifetime. He did, briefly, gain notoriety in Australia from the bitter irony of his untimely death, but was then largely forgotten through the 1970s and 1980s. He re-emerged eventually as the semi-mythic anti-hero of what Meic Stephens termed ‘the second flowering’ of Anglo-Welsh poetry.
A writer of significance requires champions – Ian Hamilton, in his seminal study of literary estates, terms them the ‘keepers of the flame’. Unashamedly partisan on the subject, we reject the view of T. H. Jones as a transitional figure or literary John the Baptist prophetic of the revival of Welsh poetry in English. We seek to reposition him as one of the defining poets, alongside Dylan and R. S. Thomas, of mid-twentieth-century Welsh culture, his distinctive contribution being an early postmodernism. Modernism, in which his work is deeply rooted, emphasizes the signifier over the signified, connotation over denotation; T. H. Jones’s poetry engages also with the search for personality: ‘the Welshman in exile’, the ‘Taffy’ who ‘was transported’, ‘spoiled preacher’, ‘poor colonial’s Dylan Thomas’. The deliberate tensions that lend fascination to his work derive from the poverty of his childhood, the stifling ideology of the chapel, the typical dislocating effects of a middle-class education and world war which transformed this grandson of a shepherd, son of a road-man, into academic high-flyer and campus poet.
Postmodernism frequently asserts the primacy of the nomadic, questioning those values that define the traditional kind of Welshness that focuses on home, hearth and hiraeth. The family is dismantled by the postmodern as surely as war completed the dismantling of those ‘certain certainties’ of which Jones’s childhood was ‘assured’. We have examined the poet’s attempt to rebuild his life: in post-war Aberystwyth upon a basis of romantic nationalism; in poverty in London through vain pursuit of an academic career; during the grey 1950s, as an