MARILYN JENKINS: CLOSE DISTANCES
Glan yr Afon
ISBN 978 1 905614 09 7
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This page last updated: 3rd January 2008.
|MARILYN JENKINS: CLOSE DISTANCES|
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 grassElsewhere, 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 dress. ... ...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.|