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This article is taken from PN Review 172, Volume 33 Number 2, November - December 2006.

Vernon Watkins and the Nostalgia of Literature M. Wynn Thomas

I have an interest to declare: Vernon Watkins has, on two occasions, been a very close neighbour of mine. His room was little distant from mine in 1966, the year in which I took up my first appointment as a very young, and very callow, Assistant Lecturer at University College of Swansea. It was the year before he was to die, at the age of 61, on a tennis court in distant Seattle: and in many ways his international reputation as a substantial poet, envied by his great friend Dylan Thomas, and admired by Yeats and Eliot, passed away with him. At Swansea his absent-mindedness became as much of a campus legend as his unselfconsciously bardic bearing - the story still circulated about the time he'd gone home at night from the bank, where he worked as a humble counter teller, and left the doors wide open, so that a policeman had to go in chase of him to secure the key. From his year's residency as writer in the Department of English I warmly remember the occasion when, gentle, generous and courteous as ever, he accepted the invitation to come and talk, in a characteristically rapt and intense manner, to a very small group of us about his acquaintance with Eliot and the insights that had given him into Four Quartets. In 1997 he again became my neighbour, after a fashion, when my wife and I moved to live in our present home, just three doors away from ...


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