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This report is taken from PN Review 22, Volume 8 Number 2, November - December 1981.

A Reading of the Manuscripts of Jack Clemo Steven John Lane
When the blindness with which Jack Clemo had been intermittently troubled since the age of five finally shut out the world, in the winter of 1954, his literary career was threatened for the second time. Deafness, chronic since 1945 and a handicap for many years before then (he has not heard a normal conversation since his 'teens), had already meant that his award-winning first novel, Wilding Graft, was to be his last. With his mother's help he completed his spiritual testimony, The Invading Gospel. It was difficult working with an amanuensis. For the next five years he hardly wrote anything at all.

Always a spontaneous writer, he had scribbled on the first piece of paper to hand when an idea seized him. He tore pages from novels, wrote over other poems, or on old circulars and receipts.

Unable, finally, to see even the child-like 'print' his deteriorating eyesight had forced him to adopt, he had to find another approach. Yet he stubbornly refused to learn Braille, calling it 'Cold gooseflesh on the corpse of words' ('Lines to the Blind', Outposts, 1961) and by the time he relented, in 1963, he had already established the method he has used ever since. His manuscripts show his refusal to be inhibited by his handicaps. He still composes longhand, and apart from the large 'print' style there is little about his manuscripts to suggest a blind man. But since 1960 he has written his poems in small red notebooks of the ...

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