Sunday, 30 December 2012

from 'Wolf Hall'

"There's a feeling of power in reserve,
a power that drives right through the bone,
like the shiver you sense in the shaft of an axe
when you take it into your hand. 
You can strike, or you can not strike,
and if you choose to hold back the blow,
you can still feel inside you
the resonance of the omitted thing."

This seems to me to be very close to poetry.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

A review of 'Tiny Disturbances'

So here is the first published review, by Colin Will, of my pamphlet 'Tiny Disturbances'.  It appears in the Summer issue of Other Poetry, a mag well worth keeping an eye out for.

This is an agreeable collection by an accomplished poet.  Family histories, memories and desires are among the subjects covered in 27 poems.  The poems are accessible and the tone is generally positive.  I particularly like 'Reply: A Found Poem', which the author says is adapted from a letter from his father to his mother.  There are some pleasing non sequiturs and accidents of syntax which make it very fresh.  I like the ending:

and as usual, it implies the world
not to mention what the hell to do
about the lupins, and eternity.

Even in my own book of poems, the best thing in it was written by Dad.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Some thoughts on 'Wolf Hall'

In the end I succumbed.  I was off to Germany for a long weekend and I wanted an intelligent airport book.  People whose opinion I respect had enjoyed Wolf Hall, and so I bought it at Heathrow, a big fat slab of a thing.

Needless to say, it is tremendously good, a historical novel in the sense that War and Peace is a historical novel - in short, not at all. 

It reminds us that the practice of virtue in public life is far from straightforward, and that just as evil often comes disguised as good, or as a man of wealth and taste, so good may occasionally take the form of the seemingly bad.

So rich, thick, complicated a book deserbes the adjective 'important'.  But why?  What is important about it? 

Thomas Cromwell, from whose point of view the book is entirely told, is presented as a Modern man, in the sense that it is Reason rather than Faith that dictates his actions. Implicit is the idea that Reason has more moral heft than Faith. At the same time, in a war it is not enough to be neutral, whether that is a war of words and ideas or a war of arms.  If your sympathies are more for one side than the other, then you must commit yourself wholly.

Cromwell, the pugnacious brewer's son  became the most powerful man in England by following both his Reason and his sense that whatever promoted Reason was for the general good.  Hilary Mantel's book is important because it reminds us that the light of Reason sometimes burns.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Jonah's Hands

This was written not long after Jonah's death, and originally published in London Magazine.  It is also in my pamphlet, Tiny Disturbances (Acumen).  Of my own poems, it is a favourite.


Jonah Jones, sculptor, 1919 - 2004

Jonah’s hands make rock soft.
He stops on the Roman Steps,
Runs big-bulbed digits over Cambrian stone
As though over lover’s flesh
And presses with his palm,
Gently promising union.

And in the workshop
Is enacted the consummation,
In which mineral and animal couple
To make art; the miracle made
From mind through touch to object.

And on the traeth the whippet
Tears through the air, slate thin
On the wide hard sand,
The sculptor’s pet the art
Beyond the sculptor’s hand.

Jonah Jones

Just opened at the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff is an exhibition of work by Jonah Jones.  Details can be found here. There's an interesting little piece on the BBC website, here. I'm slightly baffled by the Museum not approaching me or my sisters for examples of his work (I think we have five or six between us, most of which featured in a big retrospective in Mold some years ago).  Still, there is certainly plenty of other work to look at.  If you want to know more about the relationship between my father and Jonah, you might find something in my preface to Jonah's 'Gregynog Journals', which you can find on the right hand side of this here blog.  Peter Jones, Jonah's son, has written an excellent biography of his father, published by Seren earlier this year.  Details here.

Thursday, 6 December 2012


Issue 9 of the magnificent Prole, a magazine of poetry and prose, is now available.  It is edited by Brett Evans and Phil Robertson and invariably contains good stories and engaging poetry, including, in this particular issue, poems by ME. Go to the Prole website, here, for further informations.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Nobody Does it Badder

The difference between Bourne and Bond, as expressed in an amusing piece from the New York Post, to be found here.

The Rialto

Number 76, Late Autumn 2012, is out now, and features poems and prose by Gillian Allnutt, John Mole, Peter Scupham, Penelope Shuttle, John Siddique and ME, among many others.  The Rialto is edited by the terrifically discriminating Michael Mackmin.  If you are going to subscribe to only one poetry magazine, subscribe to this one. The website is: