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Charles Causley, CBE (24 August 19174 November 2003) was a Cornish poet and writer. His work is noted for its simplicity and directness, for its concerns with Christianity, and for its associations with his native Cornwallmarker.

Biography

Causley was born in Launcestonmarker in Cornwall and was educated there and in Peterboroughmarker. An office boy at sixteen (forced to leave school at the death of his father), he served in the Navy during the World War II, as a coder, an experience he later wrote about in a book of short stories, Hands to Dance and Skylark. His first collection of poems, Farewell, Aggie Weston (1951) contained his Song of the Dying Gunner A.A.1, which made an immediate impression: 'Farewell, Aggie Weston, the Barracks, at Guz,/ Hang my tiddley suit on the door/ I'm sewn up neat in a canvas sheet/ And I shan't be home no more.' Survivor's Leave followed in 1953, and from then until his death Causley published regularly. He worked as a teacher at a school in Launceston, leaving the town seldom and reluctantly, though he twice spent time in Perth as a visiting Fellow at the University of Western Australia, and worked at the Banff School of Fine Artsmarker in Canada, and especially after his retirement was much in demand at poetry readings in the United Kingdom. He made many broadcasts.

An intensely private person, he was nevertheless always approachable, and became a close friend of writers as diverse as Siegfried Sassoon, A. L. Rowse, Jack Clemo and Ted Hughes (his closest friend). His poems for children were extremely popular, and he used to say that he could have lived comfortably on the fees paid for the reproduction of only one of them, Timothy Winters:

Timothy Winters comes to school
With eyes as wide as a football pool,
Ears like bombs and teeth like splinters:
A blitz of a boy is Timothy Winters.


His belly is white, his neck is dark,
And his hair is an exclamation mark.
His clothes are enough to scare a crow
And through his britches the blue winds blow.


When a teacher talks he won't hear a word
And he shoots down dead the arithmetic bird,
He licks the patterns off his plate
And he's not even heard of the Welfare State.


Timothy Winters has bloody feet
And he lives in a house on Suez Street,
He sleeps in a sack on the kitchen floor
And they say there aren't boys like him any more.


Old man Winters likes his beer
And his missus ran off with a bombardier,
Grandma sits in the grate with a gin
And Timothy's dosed with an aspirin.


The Welfare Worker lies awake
But the law's as tricky as a ten-foot snake,
So Timothy Winters drinks his cup
And slowly goes on growing up.


At Morning Prayers the Master helves
For the children less fortunate than ourselves,
And the loudest response in the room is when
Timothy Winters roars "Amen!"


So come one angel, come on ten:
Timothy Winters says "Amen
Amen amen amen amen."
Timothy Winters, Lord. Amen.


In 1958, Causley was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and was awarded a CBE in 1986. When he was 83 years old he was made a Companion of Literature by the Royal Society of Literature - an award he greeted with the words, 'My goodness, what an encouragement!'Other awards include the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry in 1967 and a Cholmondeley Award in 1971. In 1973 - 1974 he was Visiting Fellow in Poetry at the University of Exetermarker, receiving an honorary doctorate from that university. He was presented with the Heywood Hill Literary Prize in 2000. Between 1962 and 1966 he was a member of the Poetry Panel of the Arts Council of Great Britain. He was twice awarded a travelling scholarship by the Society of Authors. He won the Heywood Hill Prize. There was a campaign, unsuccessful, to have him appointed Poet Laureate on the death of Betjeman.

In 1982, on his 65th birthday, a book of poems was published in his honour that included contributions from Ted Hughes, Seamus Heaney, Philip Larkinmarker and twenty-three other poets, testifying to the respect and indeed love that the British poetry community had for him. His work is intensely original (though influenced to an extent by W. H. Auden) and many consider him, like John Betjeman to be a man working outside of the dominant trends of the poetry of his day. Because of this, academia has paid less attention to his work than it might. His popularity, particularly among the Cornish, remains relatively high.

The Charles Causley Trust secured the poet's house in Launceston for the nation in 2006, and is working towards opening the house to the public and providing a programme of heritage activities to promote Causley's life and work.

According to the Norton Anthology of Children's Literature , "[b]ecause his characteristic themes, preoccupations, and freshness of language vary little, it is often difficult to distinguish between his writings for children and those for adults. He himself declared that he did know whether a given poem was for children or adults as he was writing it, and he included his children's poetry without comment in his collected works." (Zipes et al.: 1253). W. H. Auden comments on Causley stating that "Causley stayed true to what he called his 'guiding principle'....while there are some good poems which are only for adults, because they pre-suppose adult experience in their readers, there are no good poems which are only for children.".

Publications

  • Hands to Dance (short stories, 1951)
  • Farewell, Aggie Weston (1951)
  • Survivor's Leave (1953)
  • Union Street (1957)
  • Johnny Alleluia (1961)
  • Underneath the Water (1968)
  • Figure of 8 (narrative poems for children 1969)
  • Figgie Hobbin (for children, 1970)
  • The Tail of the Trinosaur (for children, 1973)
  • Secret Destinations (1984)
  • Collected Poems (1975)


For children

  • 'Quack!' said the Billy-goat (c. 1970)
  • As I went down Zig Zag (1974)
  • Dick Whittington (1976)
  • The Animals' Carol (1978)
  • Early in the Morning: A Collection of New Poems
  • Jack the Treacle Eater (1987)
  • The Young Man of Cury and Other Poems (1991)
  • All day Saturday: and other poems (1994)
  • Collected poems for children (1996) as illustrated by John Lawrence
  • The Merrymaid of Zennor (1999)


Plays

  • The Conquering Hero (1937)
  • Benedict (1938)
  • How Pleasant to Know Mrs. Lear: A Victorian comedy in one act (1948)
  • The Ballad of Aucassin and Nicolette (Libretto, 1981)


As editor

  • Peninsula
  • Dawn and Dusk
  • Rising Early
  • Modern Folk Ballads
  • The Puffin Book of Magic Verse


References

  1. Zipes, J. et al., eds. (2005) The Norton Anthology of Children's Literature. New York & London: Norton, 2005. ISBN 0-393-97538 p.1253.


External links




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