Laughter Tangled in Thorn and Other Poems (Corgi Series: 3)
Disgrifiad | DescriptionISBN: 9780863817038
Author: Mike Jenkins
Publication December 2002
Format: Paperback, 148x103 mm, 112 pages
A pocket size selection of 54 poems by a poet who reflects his attachment to the radical history of his Merthyr Tydfil home in both rough and tender tones, with a short biography and a useful bibliography.
Mike Jenkins's contribution to this series consists entirely of poems. They are drawn from eight collections spanning twenty years, from The Common Land (1981) to Coulda Bin Summin (2001). Of the fifty-four poems printed in all – a generous total – eight are drawn from Graffiti Narratives and Coulda Bin Summin, books written in the idiom of the Gurnos estate in Merthyr, the town where he has been for many years a schoolteacher.
In his Foreword, Meic Stephens links Jenkins as a chronicler of Merthyr's past and present with Glyn Jones, Leslie Norris and Harri Webb. But in his feeling for working-class history and experience, for excluded or marginalised people, and in his liking for writing in persona, he seems to have just as much if not more in common with Idris Davies. 'Chartist Meeting', 'Industrial Museum', 'Dic Dywyll' and 'John' are all poems that a contemporary Davies might have written.
The best of Jenkins's early work is taut, muscular and often strikes off vivid images. In 'He Loved Light, Freedom and Animals', an elegy for one of the children killed in the Aberfan disaster, we glimpse the boy 'by the river / skimming stones down / the path of the sun'. Jenkins is good at endings. Here's the conclusion of the love poem that lends the collection its title:
. . . We leave the childhood
of the moorland, to grow taller
with a tiredness which is the sister
of when we lie, translucent and still,
on the single spine of our bed.
'Translucent' is a surprising, thrilling and utterly convincing choice.
Jenkins's later work often seems by comparison thinner and barer. Of 'I' and 'Middle Age', two poems that employ the same basic strategy, the early 'I' is the more strongly imagined. It also has a wit that the broader comedy of the later work – for this reader, at least – fails to match up to.