Determinedly Poetic

My friend Jackie Biggs is an astonishing example to me that anyone can do anything if they really want to do it.  She bravely walked out of a full-time job as a journalist and began to pick up bits and pieces  of work – everything from caring for dogs at a kennels, to free-lancing, but her real intention was to do what she really wanted to do, which was to write poetry. She set about it without wasting any time at all, and she did so with such determination, and such an eagerness to find her own voice, and a willingness to learn how to do it well, that she leaves me open-mouthed with the progress she has made. She writes poetry all the time, every day is full of poetry, ideas for poems, visual triggers for poems, memories that suggest poems – she is a poet, and sends them off here and there; and good news begins to come in return, a poem in a magazine, a choice of poem of the month with a publisher, another for a collection with someone else. It is really exciting to watch. She loves what she is doing, and doing it well. You can see some of her work on her blog and believe me you will see more of it elsewhere before the year is out. She is one  of the Cardigan Cellar Bards who are filmed performing on Youtube, such a treat to see, a genuinely terrific varied bunch of talented writers. I’m writing about this today because someone recently told me to ‘grow up’ when I said I thought it possible that we can all have a go at following our destiny and we don’t have to sit hugging a desk for security and getting rich is not what it is all about. There are others around me who are doing it too. Jackie is not the only one. But yesterday she had good news with one of her poems, and it should be shared!

Paul Steffan Jones Reviewed

Poetry Triggering Happiness

The new collection of poems by Paul Steffan Jones, touches on familiar themes that readers would have discovered in his first collection, Lull of the Bull. His clear poetic eye is trained on similar subjects, with a note of humour which appears here and there, as he introduces fresh ideas and treats the reader to some genuinely interesting variation of tone and use of language. At the recent launch in Cardigan Library those attending were treated to Paul reading from his new collection, once more published by Starborn Books and called The Trigger Happiness.  The event attracted a pleasing number of people, actually requiring extra seating, the evidence if needed of the popularity of the local poet and his work. How a man is seen in his own community is one of the curious aspects of being a poet, since poetry lays bare the man within for all to see, one reason many poets shrink from  performance. Paul has none of that trepidation, and stands fearlessly before the crowded room to read the words he has written, about love, about nationhood, about lives in turmoil or desperation, and enjoyed and admired by those who listen.

His manner is still self-deprecating, but more confident than his last appearance in the Spring of 2010. He reads well and is an impressive figure and  he has had sufficient accolades, and an award from the West Coast Eisteddfod in Oregon U.S., to be assured that his work is of a high quality and widely admired.

His popularity does not mean that his poetry is simple. It takes thought to appreciate it fully, and has depth; an eye for the universal in the personal. Take ‘Forty Four’ with its searing phrases dedicated to the everyman of middle years who hears the  ‘callous patois of mandarins’ and whose changing shape demands to be ‘lashed to the skeleton by belts’. Dead Foxes singes the page with its extraordinary combination of hot anger and cold logic, Christmas Lights is made for fun, but is also simultaneously ironic and celebratory. A part of his gift is in this cleverly combining two opposing views, weaving them together into something which makes the reader think, and even reconsider their own opinions with a fresh interest. For many who have read and enjoyed Lull of the Bull, there is already an awareness of Paul’s gift for original thinking, demonstrated in his poems. This one demands more, and gives more to the reader.

The Trigger Happiness by Paul Steffan Jones is £8.00 from all good bookshops.

Sifting Poetry Books

I have already mentioned that I part with some of my books from time to time. I do not want my home to be a place where no-one can move for books on every surface. I have three decent sized bookshelves, and that, it seems to me is enough.  The process of sifting through the books, thinning them out, as I was today, often throws up something I have forgotten entirely, especially very slender volumes, almost booklets, which have been swallowed up between bigger, fatter books. Poetry often comes in little books like that. Some of my favourites are written by relatively unknown poets and one of them I came across today was The Town Beyond the World, by my late poet friend Dot Clancy. Dot was a committed poet and this particular book was a love letter to New Quay where she lived as did my family and myself. It is in two halves, Summer and Winter and as I read it the acute memory of the seasonal extremes under which we lived rushed back to me.  Several hundred people live there throughout the year, making up what is called the population, but many thousands spend the summer there and their presence transforms everything. This she captured brilliantly in her book.

Somewhere in the world is a collection of Dot’s poems though I cannot trace it and she wrote several poems to me, which would not be included in it. When my late husband died after a long illness, she sent this one to me. It is typical of the flavour of her work and I am moved every time I read it. The simplicity of the words, the conjured image of a journey, the sense of new beginnings whilst clutched in the pain of an ending, and the undeniable lingering breath of sadness at the brevity of it all make it, to me, a perfect short piece.

The Life Train stopped

and Marsh stepped off

into new horizons

and only we left behind

heard the ticking time

and felt the mirrored pain

while destination bound

we picked over the pieces

and built his memory

to share and heal