Truly inspirational teachers are few and far between. And we rarely get the chance to let them know how they have influenced our lives. But we do always remember them.
In 1995 I produced the short film of The Waste Land performed by Fiona Shaw and directed by Deborah Warner. It is a visually austere, supremely intelligent film of which I was, and remain, immensely proud. Just before transmission, on 23 December (when it secured one of the lowest primetime audiences of the decade), I very much wanted to tell one person that it would be on television. One of my English teachers, the poet Brian Jones, had first introduced me to Eliot's masterpiece, and for me the film was a modest tribute to his influence. I asked my old school, I contacted publishers and others, but no-one seemed to know where he was then living, or even if he was still alive. Now an obituary for today's Guardian (from which I have borrowed the image) solves the mystery.
Paul McLoughlin's tribute notes that after early success in the late 1960s Brian Jones moved from London to Canterbury in Kent. This was where in the early 1970s he was my teacher at Kent College, guiding me through O' level English and then, most importantly (and with others), through A' level too. Later, it appears that he moved to France, where he died at the end of June, aged 70. He published three further collections of work with Carcanet between 1978 and 1990, but after that made only occasional contributions to poetry magazines. As my efforts to track him down suggest he effectively disappeared, and McLoughlin concludes
This was at least in part the result of Jones recognising finally it was the writing that mattered to him, not what happened to the work afterwards. Jones's tendency towards the reclusive contributed to his relative critical neglect.
At a distance of some 35 years, one's memory is inevitably both selective and faulty, but I do vividly recall Brian Jones in a leather jacket staring out of the classroom window as we bent over a composition exercise. I remember him playing us an LP of Eliot raspily reading his own verse. And I think I remember him (certainly one of our teachers did) telling the class that we should go to London to see a RSC production of A Midsummer Night's Dream -- and that if we did it would stay with us for the rest of our lives. So I did, which was how I saw Peter Brook's famous production. And it has.
I don't think any of us then had much sense of Brian Jones' poems, but he was an inspirational teacher. His lessons were edgy and exciting in a way that those of my other English tutors were not. There's no question that I derived a great deal from both Mr Childs (that I know Brian Jones' first name and not Mr Childs' seems to me significant) and also from A.P.L. Slater ('Apples', although I have no idea what the 'A' stood for). But my love of literature comes primarily from this man who actually wrote it -- and had been on the telly reading it too.
Brian Jones wasn't a friendly teacher, and indeed there was a sense that he stood apart from both pupils and staff. I have no sense of his life outside school, although I know now that he was very committed also to adult education. Yet I knew that, to him, poetry mattered -- and because of that, it mattered to me too. Nor was poetry anything other than demanding and challenging and difficult. And it was subversive too. Even if I didn't know what the word meant, I could sense from Brian Jones' lessons that good poetry, and certainly great poetry, was invariably oppositional and confrontational.
I can't speak for the value of his writing, but fortunately (unlike back in 1995) the Internet can now give us both a brief Wikipedia biog and an appreciation of his early work -- by Michael Cayley in Poetry Nation, 1974. One of the few poems by Brian Jones that I do know, Husband to Wife: Party-going, was included in Edward Lucie-Smith's Penguin anthology British Poetry since 1945, published in 1970. I still have my copy, bought brand-new for 50p (since this was so close to decimilisation it also bears the price 10/-) with its striking abstract cover taken from a painting by Rolf Brandt. Concerned with a couple who have just arrived at a party, the final verse has the husband recalling an earlier such occasion
Home forgotten, rediscover
Among chirruping of voices, chink of glass,
Those simple needs that turned us into lovers,
How solitary was the wilderness
Until we met, took leave of hosts and guests,
And with delicate consciousness of what was false
Walked off together, as if there were no-one else.
Brian, I really did hardly know you, but you marked my life, and enriched it immeasurably. As I am certain you did for many others. Thank you.
What a wonderful homage to your teacher John. I agree that certain teachers will never be forgotten : I still have fond memories of both of my English teachers and kept in touch with them for many years after leaving school, Sadly, I have lost touch now, but they will be with me forever. It's such a shame that excellent teachers are so hard to find - I was fortunate enough to realise how good (and how bad !) some of my teachers were. It's not a job I could do, that's for sure !!
Brian Jones taught me in the 6th form at Kent College (1965-7). He was inspirational, edgy and v. funny in a very dry and apparently detached sort of way. He rode a moped/scooter, smoked in class and was not afraid of silences while he tried to get us (his pupils) to engage our intellectual and emotional intelligences with poetry or plays. I think that he and another teacher - Mr Carter? - were responsible for getting the school to show The War Game in a special screening at school - the film about the consequences of nuclear war which was at that time banned from public screenings. I remember we watched it in the gym and at the end we filed out in a completely shocked silence.
Brian Jones taught me at Henry Thornton Grammar School, Clapham, in the late fifties, early sixties. We called him 'Elvis': he was strikingly goodlooking. He was a fast bowler in the staff v boys cricket match. I was so impressed by his first two books, but then, like most people I lost track of his work. I admire and still own a marvellous book he wrote for children, The Spitfire on the Northern Line. Thanks to the others who've written. It is sad and strange when a publicly recorded death moves one so.
Thank you for your appreciation of Brian Jones which awakened memories of my time as Chaplain of Kent College 1969-71. Brian was fervently secular, which caused some tensions in a school with a religious foundation, but he was always warm and gracious to me. Whilst I never saw or heard him teach, I saw the impact he made on his students - I frequently went into his classroom when it was empty to study the displays of material produced by his classes, which opened up the world of poetry to me, a somewhat cultural philistine. By the way, Mr Childs was Martin, and Apple Slater was Adrian.
Thanks so much for your comments. I had forgotten about Brian Jones' fervent secularism, but I think I probably absorbed something of that as well. I also now recall that he introduced our class to the poems and engravings of William Blake -- and he took us to what was then the Tate Gallery (for probably my first visit) to see Blake's work on the walls. We returned to make poster displays with the postcards, of exactly the kind that Martyn Newman recalls. It's a particular pleasure to have your thoughts here, Martyn -- and to recognise that I did in fact have somewhere deep in my memory the Christian names of Mr Childs and Mr Slater. Is it possible that the sex education class that I also remember so vividly from my first years at KC -- taught under the guise of RE -- was given by you? I do hope you're well and thriving. @ Simon Midgley: you are absolutely right about The War Game, and the biology teacher Mr Carter ('Conk' when he wasn't around). I think he, or Brian Jones, had some connection with the filmmaker Peter Watkins, because Mr Carter at least was involved in the filming of Watkins' other great BBC film of the 1960s, Culloden. There's at least one shot in that of Mr Carter's highly distinctive physiognomy. And, yes, how odd to think that the teachers could smoke in class!
@ John Wyver: re sex education at KC. Though sex may have begun in 1963 for Philip Larkin, I don't recall that it had reached Kent College by 1971, at least in any publicly admitted way!
@ I also seem to remember that Brian had to move on from a scooter to a car because he needed a bigger vehicle to transport his then young children. At the time I recall him agonising over what make to buy. Being anti capitalist, hostile to brands, logos and large and especially American manufacturers, his solution was to buy an East European-made car because it would be hard to find spare parts for. This somewhat flagellatory move apparently went some some away towards salving his conscience for buying the car at all.
I am Brian's wife and I have been so very moved by all of your comments ... Thank you. Brian would have just loved to have met many of you again... he remembered and talked with much fondness and a lot of humour too about his life in the two schools you have mentioned. I will come back to this blog as soon as I get back home to France. I am in Kent right now waiting to attend the celebration of Brian's life and work which his children are organising on Saturday 5th September at the Riverhead Village hall from 5 pm. I am quite sure they won't mind if some of you are able to join us .
Noelle, Thank you so much for your thoughts -- and (although it feels like a strange context in which to offer this) please accept my sympathies. I regret I can't make the celebration on Saturday, but I do very much hope that it goes well. With my best wishes, John
Brian Jones was certainly one of the most influential teachers I knew. The first class I had with him was an introduction to close reading of texts using Dover Beach and in two A-level years we covered an enormous range of material. How was it possible to mark so many essays with such detailed and perceptive feedback? I remember his being involved in a schoool production of words and music on the First World War. I remember watching that documentary on TV. One afternoon he took us down the hill into the City to get us to look at buildings, showing the contrast between styles, drawing attention to the City Library as a flamboyant, enlarged version of an ordinary domestic dwelling. He gave us far more than one could reasonably expect from a teacher and I am sure that there are many people who are grateful to him.
Thanks for all of the above comments - especially John's. They have reminded me of how much I learned from Brian Jones - and I don't simply mean what was on the curriculum. And of how much Brian Jones encouraged my love of language and literature - not just poetry. Of all my teachers at Kent College, Brian is the only one I really remember fondly. Others were variously sympathetic or not, decent teachers or not, but only Brian communicated his passion for his subject. And as someone who, at a relatively late stage, has begun teaching himself, albeit in HE, I've only belatedly begun realizing quite how tough it is to instill a love of your subject in sleepy students. I'll dig out my motheaten copies of his books again tonight. I wish I had a copy of the TV documentary about him and Brian Patten.
Thanks also for each of these entries. I said I would get back to this site after the celebration of Brian's life and work last Saturday as I felt this to be an opportunity to publish (with their author's permission)many of the comments I have received since he died. As Keith Carter, who was present at the celebration, said to me "I'm sure you must have been touched and proud that so many people from such different walks of life wanted to be there and to speak about his influence on their liives, some of them over 40 years ago. Only a truly remarkable person could elicit such a response". In France, over 200 people attended his cremation ceremony... and they were indeed people from all walks of life... family, close friends, aquaintances, nurses and doctors, many just market stall holders, supermarket assistants, walkers who's admired the 'jardin du poète'... they came anonymously to pay their respect.. some asked to see him in his coffin before the cremation to give him a rose, others a kiss simply because as our gardener's wife told me "nous, on l'aimait". So this teacher and colleague of yours was first and formost a poet and a wonderfully humble, sensitive and gentle man who never lost his vision or his integrity no more than his "great spiritual strength" as one of his former Adult Education colleague remembers" and she goes on saying" he became my mentor in these early days... I always felt dwarfed by his presence; there was nothing I could teach him, whilst his insights were like precious drops of dew to be caught quickly before they evaporated". And now, it he who has evaporated... and I feel as if I have been amputated... I have lost my mentor too, but also my soul-mate, my poet, my friend, my lover and seeping slowly through this immense black hole that is my grief, I know just one thing right now and that is that I have to keep on going for him, to keep his memory alive, to get all of his unpublished work published ( he did not care so much what happened to it as "the important thing always being the process of writing itself", of finding new voices, new ways.. so he has left us two finished novels, a collection of short stories, a collection of poems he selected himself, ready for publication, a collection of Thing Cats poems, witty and full of great insight... So I am grateful to John, whom I don't know in person, for starting this blog. And I hope you do not mind my using this space. I have got my own blog, on the CaringBridge site, which I used to record Brian's last year and our fight for his survival and you are all welcome to visit it if you wish. But this is different, I look at it as a Celebration site. So if I may, I will return to it shortly when I will transfer Keith Carter's "piece about Brian" which he read to us last Saturday.. I'll add many others too. But it will take some time as I have learnt to take one day at a time... "there is no rule"... Brian's favourite words!
Noelle, What a wonderful if very sad contribution -- thank you. Of course I would be delighted for you to contribute in future posts to celebrate Brian and his work. And also please to let us all know more about the unpublished work and plans for publication. Do please make use of this thread -- and encourage others to do so also if they wish. And then I can highlight this again with a new post in the future. I do hope we have the chance to meet at some point. With my thoughts and sympathies, John
I met Brian through adult education classes at a time when my life was not particularly happy and I was trying to find a way for myself. As a teacher Brian had the unique ability to say little yet draw so much from people. I wanted to write and sometimes he frightened me but I always ended up writing more and wanting to write more. He helped to plant the seed and to give me confidence an d eventually I went on to get a Degree in Creative Writing/Literature at Canterbury (Medway Campus) as an adult student. It was a privelege to be able to go to France for the residential writing week at Le Coquerel especially as I was involved in helping to create an accessible downstairs room and bathroom. I will miss going not only for the writing opportunity but also Jean-Marc's hospitality and Noelle's openness and warm welcome. I believe 'special people' come into your life and add something that enriches both your own personal development and your understanding of life and, for me, Brian was one of those people and I will treasure that input always Joanna
I 'm Noelle's niece, so Brian's niece. I live in France, and I have known Brian since I was born, as my "british uncle with the long hair". (please forgive my grammar) I read a speech for my uncle's funeral in July, and then at the memorial in Sevenoaks in september, I would like to share it with all of you. "If somebody asked me what I am going to miss about Brian, I would answer: 1. That he always looked calm and relaxed 2. His compassion 3. His patience 4. His generosity 5. His unconditional love for the smallest things in life 6. Hearing him hum and whistle 7. Drinking a Guinness with him 8. Seeing him listen to the cricket on his small portable radio, seated on his red armchair 9. His optimism 10. His wisdom 11. Seeing him debating with my dad without getting angry 12. His strength of character 13. His long hair which I tried to plait when I was a little girl but it was so fine that I couldn?t 14. His open-mindedness 15. His powers of observation 16. His modesty 17. His intelligence 18. Hearing say the ?MacMerde? which means the ?MacShit? when he was talking about MacDonald?s? 19. The fact that he was such a cultured man 20. His spaghetti Bolognese We are all going to miss Brian. He has left his mark on our lives in the indefinable way that only exceptional people can. He helped us build ourselves: Noelle, Cathy, Steve, Nicky, my family and myself ... and dozens of other people: his students, his readers and probably everyone who met him even for a short time. He is still here, with us, inside us. Because we were inspired by him at least once, he deeply touched our lives. And this is why he will never totally disappear. " During the memorial, I met another Brian, somebody new. He was so secret at home, and I was so young I couldn't realize how interesting he was. I know I feel guilty because I was such a pest with him! I heard many people talking about my uncle, and I realized that on each side of his life, work and family, he was just the same, openminded, passionate, loving nature and life; and hating injustice, sexism, discrimination. And had an incredible strengh of character : he confront my dad about my dozens of piercings ! In french I would say " il était extr-ordinaire" Claire
I met Brian almost 15 years ago. He was the tutor at the Meopham Adult Education Centre for the then recently started creative writing class. Under his gentle and expert guidance, we quickly became a mutually supportive group which looked forward to those Wednesday evenings when we would each submit some piece of work we?d laboured over during the previous week. It always amazed me how he unerringly managed to put his finger on the weakness of whatever it was we had written, while at the same time encouraging us to improve and expand our writing ambitions. Nobody minded because he did it with such good grace and humour. However, we did learn to recognise one of his critical ploys. When he was not satisfied with what he had heard he would lean back in his chair with a dead-pan look on his face and say: ?Well, now that you have read that out to us, what do you think of it?? Brian was a good, decent man who, I am pretty sure, we all came to admire and love. He made us realise we had something worthwhile to say and he banished our self-consciousness. By the time I left his class the phantom critic who had always sat behind me whenever I wrote had gone for good. The class of 96/97 put together, under Brian?s guidance, an anthology entitled The Leaping Not the Landing ? the title was taken from a very fine poem contained in the anthology by Suzanne Stanley. Brian himself wrote the introduction and I would like to reproduce it here because it sums up so much about his personality; his beliefs and above all his amazing ability as an inspiring tutor: THE LEAPING NOT THE LANDING An anthology of poems and prose written by members of the creative writing group that met at the Meopham Adult Education Centre on Wednesday evenings from October 1996 to June 1997. The pieces in this anthology were shared, discussed, explored and valued for two hours every week around some carefully arranged tables (that had to be precisely re-aligned at the end of the evening) in a school classroom in a Kent village. While we worked, through winter darkness into the surprising evening brightness of spring, Adult Education became once more under threat; as if the needs of adults to create, develop themselves, explore their pasts and their possible futures was a suspect, illegitimate activity, rather than something a civilised society should welcome and promote. That is why we have included in Joanna's section her letter of protest to the KCC. As the tutor of the group, I can say things that the writers would not say: here are pieces which are deeply moving, very funny, richly baffling, poignant, courageous, elegant, beautiful. Words create our worlds. The writers represented here all have unique voices. No-one has ever said these things in this way before. A group will meet again next October. But it will not be the same group. This anthology celebrates the members of group 96/97. We are fading already into the past. But our words preserve us. Joyce was a member of the group that met in the spring of 96. She died suddenly last summer. We wish to include her. Brian Jones June, 1997
Thank you John for enabling theses voices to be heard... and as I read Brian's words above I cannot help but write this through a curtain of tears... this is his voice... in his words I can recall his beautiful melodious voice.. and fortunately he has left us a rare and precious cassette of his reading some of his poems to our American friends Joan and Phil... they have kindly given me back this cassette and it has been transferred onto a CD which is in the process of being "cleane up" to erase the background noises.. and with luck we'll be able to offer this CD for sale and hence raise further funds for the Brian Jones Poetry Award I intend to create. But mainly it will be an opportunity fior those who loved his poetry, or simply who loved him, to hear him speak again... I now want to transcribe here Keith Carter's homage to Brian. It is a long piece but read on, please; it is serious yet humourous.. it is like their relationship was I guess.. This was before my time with him and the Brian Jones I met in 1980 was not very far removed from Keith's recollections, except perhaps that he became more prepared to open up, show his gentleness and his vulnerabilities and submit to love and all its contracdictory emotions... he never lost his ardour , his razor-sharp sarcasm, nor his integrity though! Noëlle
Prologue: In a life-time I think there are just a handful of people who are seminal to the way we think. They change us. For me Brian was one of them so I was delighted Cathy asked me to speak. I hope that you will forgive a formal contribution on this informal occasion. It is the only way I feel I can do his memory justice. I first met Brian in 1964 when he joined Kent College, a direct grant Grammar Schoool in Canterbury. An immediate rapport developed between us, fueled perhaps by a shared scepticism of authority and some aspects of the public school ethos. His socialist principles soon prompted his campaign to achieve staff representation on the School's Governing Body, a revolutionary convept in those days. Many said he would fail but by persistence and well reasonned argument he succeeded. The reprsentation remains to this day. However we were drawn further together as I was much involved in theatre at that time and Brian was always attracted to those who attempted to be creative in whatever field. In 1966, we collaborated on the production of a miscellany of words, music and sketches on themes of war and peace in the 20th Century called "Right hand/ Left hand". He collected or wrote the materials and I directed. Then most memorably in 1968 he wrote a play. "A Long St. Monday" for school production, concerning a workers' revolt in the 19th Century. It was a remarkable play with large cast, excellent dialogue and lots of plots. The cast and I felt privileged to be responsible for its first production. It was accepted for publication in a series which was sadly axed after a publisher takeover. Certainly it was worthy of a much wider audience. To work closely with Brian on the creation of this work remains one of my outstanding experiences. Perhaps I helped in stimulating him to write it. He was generous enough to say so! Such shared experiences cemented a friendship always punctuated by much laughter, even when he was criticising my acting efforts. No offence could be taken as no malice was involved, only a respect for any talent one showed and a desire to help you improve. This made him an inspirational teacher as did his other great gift as a true communicator, on paper or verbally. In company he sparkled. The over-used adjective "charismatic" applied to Brian. It was not simply owing to his appearance, his mane of dark hair fashioned in 60's style, piercing glance accompanied in those days by a repetitive slightly nervous blink, but more the result of what he said and the way he said it. When he spoke people listened. They learnt and they remembered. In the past weeks, it has been remarkable how many colleagues, friends, acquaintances, ex-pupils have told me of their memories and how much he had meant to them. Provocative, entertaining, stimulating, perceptive, incisive... he was all those but most important Brian was a kind man. Someone to turn to in difficult times. He understood. He showed empathy and of course could choose the precise words that made a difference. However sometimes he showed fallibility and human frialty. None of us is perfect! He was the only person I know to have failed his driving test on a 49cc moped! On test day I suggested he borrowed my crash helmet, not compulsory in those days, as that would doubtless impress the examiner. Although it was too big for him he assured me it would be fine as he would push it back on his head. On his return I enquired :"Everything OK?" I receive the piercing glance, black this time. "No" he replied through clenched teeth. When later I summoned up the courage to investigate further, it appeared that all was going well until the Emergency stop. As Brian jammed on his brakes his head jerked forward, my helmet slid inexorably over his eyes on to the bridge of his nose: view totally abstracted. Fortuantely, the examiner managed to step back behind the tree from which he had just emerged so no serous injury was sustained. However clearly the examiner considered that being able to see where you were going was a prerequisite for a successful test result.... I think Brian always held me responsible! I never saw him after he left East Kent although after a few years he did return to my house but unfortunately I was away. He told a neighbour he would return and over the years in the back of my mind I hoped that one day there would be a knock at the door and once again we would share a dring, a chat, some laughs or listen to his Edith Piaf records like we used to. Sadly now I must rely on memories and how vivid they are. Of a devoted father so proud of the considerable achevements of Cathy and Stephen of whom he invariably spoke whenever we met. His recollection of the major influences in his own life of Lewis in Cambridge, poet Edward Thomas, of his working class origins in London, Aunt Em, Grandad slowly burning roof beams salvaged from the Blitz progressively feefing them into the fireplace by an elaborate system of pulleys. I recall his graphology studies when we all submitted our handwriting for analysis. Our trips to London museums and Art galleries researching ideas for a set for his play or going to Leichner (unsure of this word) make up headquaters for advice for our "Othello" production where a rather camp assistant demonstrated by blacking Brian up as the Moor. I recall the headmaster who tried to force Brian to conform to a pointless school tradition only to receive "the look" and incisive verbal riposte which made him wish he hadn't tried. The excitement of publication of his first book, sold out in 3 weeks as the Sun Newspaper surprisingly reported. I recall mutual advice and encouragement during batting partnership for the staff cricket XI. He lives on and will never be forgotten by those of us privilieged to have known him. But as he always taught me "the poet has the superior words" so who better than Brian Patten whose life and style was contrasted with his in the BBC Omnibus documentory called "A Couple of Brians": "So how long does a man live, finally? And how much does he live while he he lives? We fret and ask so many questions Then when it comes to us The answer is so simple after all. A man lives as long as we carry him inside us For as long as we carry the harvest of his dreams, For as long as we ourselves live, Holding memories in common, a man lives" So Brian thank you for the laughter and for sharing those exciting creative years with me and apologies for the crash helmet. Thank you for all you taught me but above all Thank you for being my friend.
I am Nick. Brian was my step father and today I feel I have lost my dad. I wrote this to be read on my behalf on the day of Brian's funeral. I am sorry I cannot be here today and say something to you in person-my good friend Graeme has kindly agreed to talk to you on my behalf- but I will be thinking of you all at this very moment from California- it will be early morning. Luc and Joseph will be up, back from their walk with the dog, eating breakfast, probably arguing and fighting while getting ready for school. This is normally the time we called to talk to my mum, Noëlle, and to Brian - part of our daily routine, and theirs. Th fact that these little boys, on the other side of the world, loved their papi Brian so much says a lot about what a man Brian was, and what an enormous void he leaves. Often, at the end of our wits, we called Brian to calm Luc or Joseph down. Brian's distinctive, soothing, melodic voice always worked- 6,000 miles away. It is very hard to explain to these two little boys that Brian is no longer with us, especially as I have myself found it so very hard to deal with the fact that Brian was taken away from us too early and too cruelly, all whil I have been so very far away. When I came to Normandy a couple of weeks ago, I did not expect to make it in time to see Brian alive- he was so very, very ill. But, as he had done so many tims before, he confounded the medical staff and recovered just enough so we could spend a few aftenoons together with Cathy and Steve, talk, enjoy a visit from Maia, enjoy a last birthday with Cathy and a last father's day with Nyasha- both celebrated by tarte that Brian forced himself to eat. Brian's will power is what kept him alive in the last weeks. Brian was more of fighter than I ever had realized, his physical bravery was astonishing. But, thoug Brian never knew it, he had reached the end. He was beginning to suffer tremendously; he had been in bed for more or less six months, and was so incredibly weak and ill. Gaunt but still bloody-minded, he continued to battle on because, he told me, he had no choice- so he forced himself to eat even though he did not have the strength to move an inch and had to be helped to change positions in bed. it was so very apparent that Brian was not prepared to go without another fight. He had so much still to do; he had ideas for plays and short stories, a Morris traveler was on his shopping list, he had ideas for the garden, was planning trips to Rome and to Crete this summer, was looking forward to my bringing the boys and Maia to Normandy in August. So it is desperately, desperately hard to say good-bye to this lovely and beautiful man who was not finished living his life. The only way I can deal with this is to consider the legacy that Brian leaves behid. And that is some legacy because, while there is some truth in saying that a poet never dies, Brian's brillant body of work - poems, novels, short stories - is only a very small part of the legacy he leaves. The truth is Brian was a teacher and mentor first and last and his legacy can be seen in the enriched lives of hundreds and hundreds of people, myself included. Brian taught young people in schools for years. But it is his teaching and mentoring of adults that is, I think, Brian's greatest legacy. As a senior adult educator, Brian developed innovative programs that helped people who had been failed by the British education system to develop and cultivate themselves. Brian help give hindreds and hundreds of people a second chance and the tools to enrich their lives. Brian has also provided many lessons in the art of living - here are just a few: Be who you are, live in the moment, anger is not worth the energy, fight for what you believe, celebrate differences, go for very long walks, turn the central heating down and open the window. I just wanted to take a brief moment to mention and thank my mum. I know that Brian would have wanted to acknowledge her for fighting this fight alonside him every step of the way. Noëlle has been incredible - I was exhausted after being with her for 10 days so what she did over the last 8 months and really, over the last three years, is astonishing and testament to the incredible, perhaps unique love and bond Noëlle and Brian share. Nicholas J. Wenbourne
I had no idea that my modest post would prompt such wonderful memories and tributes -- and I feel entirely humbled to have the contributions here of Claire and Nick, of Noelle again, of Terry Fairhead -- and of the formidable but wonderful teacher who I can still only think of as "Mr" Carter. I dissected a frog with Mr Carter, I remember his scary lessons about what smoking did for your lungs -- and now that he reminds me I absolutely recall Brian's play A Long St Monday, which I remember now as deeply impressive. Thank you all once again.
Like Joanna and Terry, I was one those adult students to whom Nick refers. In his last class in Sevenoaks before retiring to France, Brian read to us the following passage from Walt Whitman's 'Leaves of Grass'. I have never forgotten it as it seems to me exactly to represent the kind of inspiring and generous teacher that Brian was: 'You are also asking me questions, and I hear you; I answer that I cannot answer ..you must find out for yourself. Sit awhile wayfarer, Here are biscuits to eat and here is milk to drink, But as soon as you sleep and renew yourself in sweet clothes I will certainly kiss you with my goodbye kiss and open the gate for your egress hence. Long enough have you dreamed contemptible dreams, Now I wash the gum from your eyes, You must habit yourself to the dazzle of the light and of every moment of your life. Long have you timidly waded, holding a plank by the shore, Now I will you to be a bold swimmer, To jump off in the midst of the sea, and rise again and nod to me and shout, and laughingly dash with your hair. I am the teacher of athletes, He that by me spreads a wider breast than my own proves the width of my own, He most honors my style who learns under it to destroy the teacher. ('Leaves of Grass' 46 & 47)
This is very moving Alyss. I remember Brian reading it out to me before he left for his last class! My brother Jean-Marie has asked me to transcribe here a letter he has written to Brian and myself following weeks of silence after Brian's funeral. I am translating this so you'll all have to forgive some awkarness of style. Noëlle I am Noëlle's brother and Brian's "soul" brother.. . "law" as nothing to do with our relationship! I wanted to compose a piece of music for you Brian, but nothing came out, even though I heard it my head and in my heart... Everything was telescoping, images and sounds.. memories floated by and I remained miserably static! You arrived in my life, Brian, at a critical time. I was at a strategic crossroad and you and Noëlle helped me to make responsible choices. She with her lucid mind, her energy, you with your discrete and flexible presence. You who knew how to find ,each and every time, the words that hit the right chord. You, with your sense of humour, your irony. You with that extraordinary look of yours, then you with this immense love of life. I have blessed you both for your hospitality, your generosity and your kindness when I was suffering and also when I was happy. I have loved everything you have given me: the days and the evenings together, the walks or the rides in your camping car or in the old Morris, in New Ash gren, in Normandy or in Brittany... those pints of beer in the old pubs, the glasses of wine at "La Bergerie", our talks and our meals together.. but most of all, most of all, I loved your cups of tea,Brian, when I was thirsty of I don't precisely know what, but which always and immediately filled a void, drown a vague and amorphous anxiety feeling which would have otherwise overwhelmed me. I want to thank you too, Brian, for having taken me along those lanes which could only ever belong to you since only you knew how to make us discover them, bring them to life and sing their charm! And I'd always go home refueled, my mind and eyes full of sharper colours, knowing I would be heard again whenever and wherever I'd find you near me. For me, the lost knight, "La Bergerie" has truly been the "Tintagel", and you my sister, "The lady of the Lake", you Brian, "Merlin".... in truth there has been magic at work in the way you both transformed the old sheepstead into this miniature Norman manor house and in how what was just a vast lucern field became this magnificent park.. even the fish pond just missed being a lake! I am quite sure there are goblins lurking around those bushes... I'll never forget the day these crows flew above us just as we walked into the forest leaving behind us the little valley where we have now scattered your ashes... No, I'll never forget that walk... I recall how, having become prematureraly lazy and heavy, i was tired before we started off. You pretended not to notice but your voice moved me along. I hear you still explaining local history, bringing to life old and decrepit hay barns, making me discover old Norman hedges, I remember your anger at the way they had been violently sheared off and scarred by machines, but most of all I remember the life in your eyes... that clear blue stare that missed not a single detail of that nature you loved so much. Brian, I will never forget you. You live in my memories and in my heart and in the beauty of this nature which I too love. I know now that is where your paradise is and how right it is that Noëlle chose to let you wonder in that valley for ever. My little sister, I have just found the way to speak of my grief... recalling memories has put an end to the silence of the last long weeks... Jean-Marie Soret
Hello John, Brian Jones also taught me at Kent College. We had to copy out poems into an exercise book called Extracts. I can still remember copying down from the blackboard lines from The Prelude ? ?it was an act of stealth and troubled pleasure? etc (from Book One of The Prelude). Also, TS Eliot?s ?and then the lighting of the lamps.? Lines that have stayed with me ? Aged 11 and from my very first term at KC, I can recall, too, a fierce debate in the classroom about the rights and wrongs of a proposed South African cricket team tour going ahead to the UK in 1970. Mr Jones made no pretence about being impartial in this debate. Those were the days of apartheid, of course. A few years later, I was working in a supermarket and Mr Jones came in. It was the time of a sugar shortage, and I used to offer customers an extra bag of sugar when we had them in. Mr Jones accepted this with the same abstracted air he sometimes had in the classroom. I was a gawky teenager by then and too shy to identify myself to him as an ex pupil. Robert Hollier PS John, on an entirely separate note, tomorrow (October 2nd) marks one year since the death of Maria Dolores Blackman in Oxford.
I know that "abstracted air", Robert... just a façade behind which he hid his vulnerable self.... He did take sugar in his coffee, by the way, so I should think he was grateful for the extra bag of sugar! I just wanted to add that Keith Carter has asked me to print all of these comments.... he cannot wait to see what is being said about him too... so I'll be printing this coming weekend... anymore comments for him ? Thanks again John for this medium... it is making a lot of people happy ... I 'll communicate dates for poetry reading events as soon as everything is fiixed. I've heard too that the 'Saison Poetry Library in the Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank is holding an exhibition of Brian's life and work.... really delighted to hear this... England is celebrating her "poète disparu".... I feel deeply grateful...any idea as to whom we owe this event? Noëlle Soret-Jones
I have no idea what prompted me today to google Brian Jones poet. How strange then to discover this thread which has evoked so many memories. I share the recollections of many here of Brian's English classes and the leather jacket. To read Keith Carter's post and to realise where some of the most important things in my life were nurtured: English, poetry, drawing (the challenges of all the drawing required in Keith's biology classes), theatre (I was in Long St Monday and many years later directed a production of Anouilh's Antigone - Keith's production of it at KC has always stayed with me.
Well, Brian is up there winking down on us .. I am certain. I am in Rome for now and had this strange experience visiting Keits and Shelley's house yesterday... it was my birthday too... but I will have to write about it some other time. When I get back to England I wiil be finalising dates for poetry readings. I will post here the dates, times and venues... I am still working to holding three events for the middle of March. I was delighted to read this latest entry... it is so very important to me right now to know of some many people remembering Brian and paying tribute to him... I am at one and the same time excited, grateful but so very, very saddened by these testimonies. I just so wish there'd be no need for them. But do go on.... and thank you.
Just to let everyone know that the Poerty Library Display of Brian's work is now on at the Royal festival Hall... I am not sure for how long but hope I can get to England on time to see it. It would be great if someone is able to take a photo or two in case I can't make it to London before it is taken down... I am back from Rome but have to attend to quite a lot of administrative matters still and I am also running out of cat sitters fior Lily White Jones.. Brian's latest little cat. Noëlle
Brian Jones was a teacher, a neighbour, a football team-mate and a friend. When he joined Kent College, where I was a rebellious pupil from 1961 to 1966, I was delighted to find that he had moved into the house opposite mine in St Stephen's Road. Although he appeared to enjoy his privacy, I nevertheless saw a great deal of him. Brian never taught me but he was one of the few masters at the rugby-playing school who did not frown upon my love of soccer and my attempts to introduce the sport at KC. In those days we had some outstanding all-round sportsmen and I was permitted to organise four friendlies against local schools outside of school time. We emerged unbeaten from the venture, beating St Edmund's 1-0, Archbishop's 8-1, Frank Hooker 4-2 and drawing 3-3 with the best school of the time, Simon Langton. Players such as Roger Cawley, Mike Anderson, Paul Mutter, Colin Cutter are easily recalled. After leaving Kent College, I founded a local team that played in the Canterbury and District League and St Stephen's 67 FC were able to give Brian Jones an opportunity to display his athletic skills as a ball-hugging midfield player (we called them inside-forwards and wing-halves in those days). He was, indeed, a capable and popular player and he looked forward to his Saturday afternoons at St Stephen's Meadows. I have often thought of Brian, especially as I have returned to St Stephen's Road, although a couple of doors away from where I used to live as a schoolboy. I did make attempts to track him down at one stage but these proved fruitless. It was in the October edition of Kent College Times that I learned of Brian's passing and I was stunned and deeply saddened. I liked him a lot.
?Very good indeed. All your own work?? It was this comment at the base of a piece of 6th Form work in ?67 on ?The Portrait of an Artist? that the germ of the idea was born that I wasn?t the widely proclaimed intellectual no-hoper that even I believed. A certain David Norfolk had hammered into me that my A Levels were a lost cause. It was with a certain childish pleasure that I was later to write to inform him that I had obtained a rather good degree from a rather well known university. I believe that ?rather good degree? can be traced back to Brian Jones? red biro. Why did he help me break the mould? Because even a truculent eighteen year old could feel that he was the real thing. There was no division between the man and his subject matter. Literature was not just a curriculum item, but was connected to real life outside those dreary school walls. I never knew him, but I absorbed him in an almost magical and mysterious way that I?m sure Brian would have approved of. (I feel certain irreverence in using just his first name). So that, although I never knew him, I knew him well.
So moved to note these latest entries... and that this thread is still being used! Brian often talked about the soccer team... and Richard, you are right, Brian would have approved, irreverence included! I wanted to let everyone know that the display of Brian's work at the Poetry Library at the Festival Hall will be running until Christmas. I will myself be visiting the display in the afternoon of friday 2Oth November. I'll be in England for week organising venues for readings of Brian's latest work and will post details as soon as dates are confirmed. PN Review has published the article written in the Guardian by Paul Mcloughlin in its latest issue and a full article, written by Paul, together with some of Brian's new poems will appear in the next issue. I am working on the novels right now too... more later.
Dear Noelle Sort-Jones My name is Sue Pringle and I am a first cousin of Brian Jones. My Father Alfred Owen Jones was the brother of Brian's father, William who I remember very fondly as Uncle Bill. There were not many family gatherings with Brian and his brothers and sisters but I remember Brian due to his tall height and long hair, but I was so much younger than him that I never had the courage to talk to him I have read many of the messages dedicated to Brian Jones and although I did not know him personally I was truely moved by the words and love that was expessed by all. I will certainly make a point of obtaining copies of Brian's poems. I know that my dear Uncle Bill and Aunt Ada would be so proud of their son and on behalf of my brothers and sisters we wish you and your family all the very best. Sue
Thank you Sue.. it is so great to hear from one of uncle Alfred's children! I recall a couple of Jones's Get together (to welcome auntie Rita home from Canada ...both times)... and Brian loved those gatherings... in fact his last collection of poems, "Freeborn John", was dedicated to "Bill and Ada, my parents and for the kinship of Jones". Also in the early collection "Poems and Family Album, there is a long poem "A Family Album" which you might find of interest since it does draw on family history even though it is not necessarily absolutely autobiographical. Brian loved the idea of uncle Alfred hiring a coach to get the whole of his ten children and their family to these gatherings... he recalled those moments with great pleasure and it is rather sad that you felt "too shy" to talk to him... but the great thing about a poet is that "he never dies" and he has left a great deal for all of us to continue to get to know him through his writing as well as through many of the comments that have been posted here. I am in touch with both Rita and Patsy... so if you'd like to contact me, do not hesitate to get my e mail address from them. I am at present in Los Angeles until the 6th February. I have organised three poetry readings.. the first in Tonbridge on 12th March, the second in Canterbury on 19th March and the third in London, at the Royal festival Hall (I still need to confirm the date for this later venue). These will be followed by three further readings in the North of England sometime in June. I am working on a leaflet with details of these readings and will be posting it by mail, sending it to a variety of places... if any one has any time to spare in the new year... I will need help with the distribution to Adult creative writing classes, literature classes etc. so do let me know if you can help. At the moment, a variety of people have agreed to read Brian's poems for these events, including Dylan, Brian's brother, Alyss Dye one of Brian's former student and friend of ours, Paul Mcloughlin, who wrote Brian's obituary for the Guardian as well as a remarkable amount of articles on him, and Peter Wight, the actor, has also offered his voice, subject to availability.. again if any one else is willing to read, just let me know. Thanks again John for keeping this thread open.. it is now almost 4 months and it is still being used. Here in America, it has only just been discovered it.. and I've just heard fr,om the William Morris agency, so we might still have some surprising comments. Noelle
Hi Noelle I am one of Uncle Alfs children the fourth oldest and its been fantastic reading the above letters. Aunt Rita was over here for 10 days and stayed with my sister Julia and Husband John Clench in a small village in Stotfold Herts. It was a great joy having her with us. We had the first family get together since Mum died 7 years ago but this time it was to celebrate our sister Kathy 60th. All twelve of us was together and lots of photos of all of us was taken. The names from the eldest Alan, Julia,Kathy,Pat,Rita,Lesley.Kevin,Martin,Sue,Ian,Debbie and Stacy Mum and Dad left us many happy memories and our family is still growing. I met with Brian and yourself many years ago with Uncle Bill and Aunt Ada again l really did not speak with yourself or Brian. Thank you for keeping us all inform of Brian's work and l will await for further information of forth coming poetry readings. Love and Best wishes Pat xxx
I am Brian's sister Jennifer. On behalf of my brothers Dylan and Barry, and my sister Susan, I would like to thank everyone for their tributes to Brian, and for sharing their special memories of him. It has been a very moving experience. Thank you John for keeping this thread open - it's been amazing how so many people have found and used it! I would like to say hello to Sue and Pat - our cousins. We remember your Dad, our Uncle Alfie, very well - he always had a story to tell and had a wonderful sense of humour, like all the Jones's! Like Noelle, we are in touch with Patsy and Rita, so if you want to email they have our addresses. It would be great if you could make it to a poetry reading - Dylan hopefully will be reading at one of them. Best wishes to everyone Jennifer L'Estrange
Dear Noëlle Soret-Jones, Brian's family, and friends, It pleases me to be able to contribute to this testimony to Brian, my English teacher around 1965 to 1970. Due to my weakness at reading and writing I struggled through 'O' Level with a minimum pass, only learning to read and comprehend with speed in my mid-twenties. Writing has always been a chore but I have Alan Sugar to thank when in the 80s he launched a word-processor for the masses. The computer enabled me to construct, spell check, re-construct and edit well into the night, until I had a professional piece of writing. My literary attempts are extremely limited but it has been rewarding to be invited to contribute to trade publications, web sites, and help design and communication students with their dissertations; unattainable employment if one had asked Brian or myself in the 60's. However, back then we all thought the world of Brian and like many others I just had to buy his books that still adorn my shelves. They are the creative endeavours of someone quite special; a free thinker that had us analysing Lennon-McCartney's 'Penny Lane'. My wish in recent years was to be able to thank my teachers for their patience and let them know I was able eventually to string a few words together in the right order. When I last Googgled Brian he was still alive; a missed chance. Poets are not renowned for becoming mainstream popular stars or high earners however their works underpin the UK?s reputation for creative industries and Brian's work is a part of that reputation. Invisible earnings from intellectual property contribute to our Nation's wealth and hopefully the content augments our moral fibre from time to time. Do please keep us posted about the readings:- Tonbridge,12th March; Canterbury, 19th March; Royal Festival Hall (tbc); North of England, June (tbc). I'll paraphrase the words used at the close down of the pirate station Radio London in 1967. Mr. Brian Jones: 'did a lot of good and very little harm'. His influence lives on. Good Health, SB
Thanks so much to Pat and to Stephen for their moving contributions to this blog. It has been a long time since I last used it myself... grieving takes many forms I have come to learn... I am coming out of a strange zone ... one which rendered me incapable of further communication... But I am back and delighted to confirm the poetry reading dates and venues: On 12th March, at the Tonbridge school, in the Cawthorne Lecture Theatre, accessible from the High Street, from 7.30pm to 9.00pm. The event will be presented by Peter Carpenter, the school Head of English together with Paul Mcloughlin and the readers will include Dylan Jones, (Brian'sbrother), Alyss Dye (a very dear friend), and some of the school sixth formers who have attended workshops on Brian's poetry in order to prepare for this event. On 19th March, in the Old Library at Kent College, Whistable Road, Canterbury where we expect many former friends, colleagues and 'old boys' to attend. Readers will include the actor and 'old boy' Peter Wight, Paul Mcloughlin as well as some fo Brian's old friends. A further reading at the poetry library in London is being arranged for July and I will use this site again to confirm the date. These events are an opportunity to re visit some of Brian's most famous poems and to present poems from a new and exciting ,but yet unpublished collection: "Burning Through The Fade". So I hope you will find the time to come along to one or both of these venues to suport ME as well as all those who have worked so hard at making these readings come about thus keeping Brian's memory alive. I am delighted that John Wyver, whose blog this is and which has enabled so many voices to be heard (incidently one of Brian's most fervent wish) will be attending the Canterbury venue... Hoping to meet many of you very soon now Noëlle
Interesting, isn't it, how a personal tribute on a company website has unleashed such a powerful force of testimony to one man. It's as if there has been the latent desire, but not the ability, to express that gratitude, sadly now too late to do so to the man himself. Certainly, that is my story. Over the years, I have wanted to express my gratitude to two very special teachers at Kent College, Brian Jones and Keith Carter. Now, paradoxically, I find they were close friends. I cannot claim to have been one of Brian's more gifted pupils; indeed I clearly recall some fairly harsh (if thoroughly deserved) comments he made about my work. However, I recall exactly the incidents recalled by John Wyver and others - a recording of Prufrock recited by Eliot, the Brook production of MSND with trapeze artists and other circus acts, the paintings by Blake (some of which I recently had the chance to see in New York), the excitement when one of my teachers was on television, the production of Antigone (over my head at the time, I'm afraid)... Despite being of a scientific bent, Brian managed to instil in me a deep love of literature, which continues to this day, and left me with a deep sense of gratitude to the man, which until now I had not found a way to express. Over the years, I have checked websites but never found a point of contact, apparently a problem shared by others. Despite Brian's acclaim as a poet, it was as if he has disappeared. Now I find that was, at least in part, a deliberate step and my means of expressing thanks is can no longer be to him but, as importantly, to those who knew and loved him. In the hope that Keith Carter is still following this link, I now have the chance to pass my particular gratitude to him. He was, I believe, an unusual and inspirational teacher who imparted knowledge and a love of knowledge to his students. He accepted me into a zoology class despite the fact, for reasons lost in the mists of time, that I had not studied for biology "O" level. I went on to graduate as a vet and I believe Keith is in no small measure to thank for the professional satisfaction I have enjoyed in my career, working in a variety of countries (now based in the Beaujolais, France). I believe those of us who attended Kent College in the mid-60s to mid-70s were truly blessed in having several exceptional teachers, epitomised by Brian and Keith. All this goes back some 40 years: this has been a cathartic experience for me as these men and their particular skills have been on my mind since then. Just one more small tribute as a reminder of the influence, certainly unknown to them, these men had. Peter Jeffries
It may be of interest to contributors to this page that my essay on Brian Jones's poetry, called 'Romantic Agoraphobia', will appear in a forthcoming issue of P.N.Review, the magazine adjunct to Carcanet Press, which published Brian's last three collections. A long unpublished poem by Brian, called 'From Voltaire's Garden & Other Entanglements', will accompany the essay. P.N.Review will also be publishing my poem, 'Ritual', an elegy written in memory of Brian.
I knew Brian when he ran literature classes at Hilderstone in Thanet. He came to give poetry readings at Thanet Tech where I taught, and achieved the distinction of a colege typist's taking exception to typing something he had written! I had to do the typing - I can't remember now what line she objected to. It is fascinating to read the many tributes to Brian, mainly emanating from Kent College. I'm sure that similar tributes would come from the manyThanet adults whose lives he touched through his adult education work, which was the area in which I knew him. I think, looking back, that I took his dedication to adult education for granted - it was a time when we all thought that work to be very important, and it wasn't as much questioned and undermined as it is now. I never felt that I knew Brian - to me he was a deeply private person, even though I saw him frequently and he was always encouraging of my adult ed teaching. I knew his poetry and admired it, and feel very sorry that somehow it disappeared from view - a theme in this blog/thread. I do hope that reflects Brian's wish, rather than a disappointment for him. I wish I'd known of the Kent poetry reading. On the event of Brian's death, discovered by me through the Guardian obit, my friend and his, Russell Celyn Jones, phoned me to share memories of Brian; we felt his loss. I found this blog through googling Brian; I did this because I am mounting a very small exhibition in Broadstairs for a week in the summer, featuring local poetry about Thanet, but with some reference also to established poets who have written about Thanet. Brian was the one poet I could think of who really wrote about and from Thanet, and I am planning to feature one of his poems or books. Coincidentally, Eliot is one of the other poets featured, since he is now known to have written part of The Waste Land in Margate. So they will be alongside each other, albeit in the humble circumstances of the Old Lookout in Broadstairs (Aug 13-18). Thank you for opening my understanding of a man and a poet whom I knew but didn't know - Sally Minogue
My essay on the poetry of Brian Jones ('Romantic Agoraphobia') will appear in P.N.Review 201 later this year. It will be accompanied by Brian's long poem 'From Voltaire's Garden and Other Entanglements'. P.N. Review is the magazine adjunct of Carcanet Press, which published three collections of Brian' poetry. I am also editing and writing an introduction for Brian Jones: 'New & Selected Poems' to be published by Shoestring press in 2012
PN Review 201 has now been published. It includes my essay on Brian Jones's work, 'Romantic Agoraphobia', and a long, previously unpublished poem of Brian's called 'From Voltaire's Garden and Other Entanglements'. Copies may be obtained from P.N Review, Alliance House, 30 Cross Street, Manchester M2 7AQ, or from the Carcanet Press or P.N.Review web pages. Details of the Brian Jones 'New & Selected Poems' I currently editing for Shoestring press will follow at a later date. If you have any difficulty ordering a copy of PN Review 201, please contact me.
Those wishing to buy a copy of PN Review 201 should log on to the Carcanet web site (links are not allowed here). Click on Information; scroll down to and click on Shopping Guide; then click Quick Link on the right to PN Review; PNR 201 is the final item on page 6 (£5.99).