An independent small press poetry review

NHI independent review
Cinnamon Press
Ty Meiron
Glan yr Afon
Blaenau Ffestiniog
LL41 3SU
ISBN 978 1 905614 09 7

email Cinnamon Press
visit the website of Cinnamon Press

NHI review home page
FAQ page
Notes for Publishers

book reviews
other media

Web design by Gerald England
This page last updated: 3rd January 2008.

This is a very smartly-made perfect-bound volume, with seventy-three pages of text. The format is wholly professional/mainstream in design, and besides the author's own work, it contains only the usual publication details, as well as advertisements for ENVOI magazine, and the publisher's own writing awards. The poems are divided into two sections: GOING BACK, containing twelve poems; and VOICES containing thirty-one poems. There is also a half-page of explanatory notes, offering guidance on some Welsh words and phrases.

Throughout CLOSE DISTANCES Jenkins's voice is very well-developed, offering a clipped style, juxtaposing ideas, images and retrospections intelligently and with intense feeling. Many of the poems — or at least sections of them — are subtle and well-poised. Only occasionally does her penchant for condensation lead to a slight obscurity.

I enjoyed the emotional frankness of many of the poems, including these lines from TOWN PARK:

	I want it how it was
	hushed with secrets,
	enclosed, dangerous from when
	it was told, just after the war a Polish man
	was found with his throat
	cut in the plantation
	just here where now
	there's billiard-table grass
Elsewhere, as in BANDSTAND and CAMEO, Jenkins’s powers of evocation are very enticing, offering precision without sentimentality. Here is the opening and closing of CAMEO:
			You fixed the
	cream lace collar and cried
	aloud as the brooch's
	gold pin pierced your finger
	and red drops

			welled to sink
	black in the crepe of your


	...Then thud

			of clods broke
	all about you.  Above lace
	that carved white mask was dry.
	Only your blood dropped tears
	on the cameo's flesh coloured face.
There are many moods evidenced in the poems' distinctive structures and cadences. Some, like DAWN CHILL are tense, nervy little constructions; others, like WAITING, are slower paced and more discursive. Once in a while a piece may not be altogether successful, though it may contain flashes of genius. A case in point is AUGUST, subtitled OCTAVIA TO ANTHONY — thus recalling the pose of the wrong-ed-woman narrators Ovid used in the HEROIDES. Much of the poem is unsurprising in its content and tone, but the concluding stanzas, detailing how Anthony's absence will blight the future of his maturing daughter, are subtle and compelling. Here are the last lines:
	Not grief, only that great shadow
	under her cold look will spread, leach the edge 
	of brightness from her life.
Good psychology and good rhetoric fused into some fine verse.

All in all, though this appears to be the author's first collection, there is a great deal in it that bodes very well. Most importantly, there is a clear commitment to the craft which, together with the imagination and integrity shown, can only lead to further good things.

reviewer: John Ballam.