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This review is taken from PN Review 79, Volume 17 Number 5, May - June 1991.

WELSH CONNECTIONS Islwyn Jenkins, Idris Davies of Rhymney (Gomer) £9.75
The Welsh Connection, edited by William Tydeman (Gomer) £9.50

Idris Davies of Rhymney has a Foreword by Neil Kinnock, and is a personal memoir of the Welsh poet by his younger cousin and close friend of thirty five years. Islwyn Jenkins was born and brought up in the same declining coal and iron community, and is consequently an authoritative recorder of the life and place and time which Idris Davies wrote about in his best known poems, Gwalia Deserta (1938), which voices the predicament of the people of industrial south Wales during the Depression, and The Angry Summer (1943), 'A poem of 1926'. Aided by his access to his cousin's lucid and evocative autobiographical prose writings, Islwyn Jenkins provides a vivid account of Idris Davies's antecedents and earlier years: his schooldays, his seven years as a miner working at the coalface, his years of unemployment but of avid reading and study, after 1926, before he left Wales in 1930 for England. Thereafter, Idris Davies the teacher in London junior schools, the disillusioned idealist teaching in the Rhondda during part of the war, and the 'disappointed unsettled man' home at last in Rhymney, is a much more shadowy figure, and Islwyn Jenkins's discussion of the poetry does little to elucidate his complexity. However, he has written an affecting memoir of one who was 'modest, guileless and courageous', in which he struggles honestly to keep his cousin's doubts separate from his own beliefs as an Anglican priest, while inevitably seeing him against a Christian understanding of the modern world.

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