This week’s poem is all about books, in celebration of Independent Bookshop Week 2015! ‘Moving In’ is from Paul Henry’s latest collection, Boy Running, published earlier this year. Earlier this week Paul read at Griffin Books, an independent bookshop in Penarth, and today he and fellow Seren poet Jonathan Edwards are reading some of their poetry at the NATE conference in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
Paul Henry has gained a reputation as one of of the best poets in the UK. Boy Running is his beautiful sixth collection and the first to follow ‘The Brittle Sea: New and Selected Poems’. We begin in a ‘Studio Flat’. Cut adrift by marital break-up, the poet must sort through the emotional fallout and the various ‘chattels’ left behind; a sea of characteristic props: tables, lamps, metronomes, pianos, guitars. The poet’s sons are at the heart of this section where pathos is balanced by humour amidst the characters of a small country town.
A second section moves to the Welsh coastal town of Henry’s childhood, Aberystywth, opening with a long poem, ‘Kicking the Stone’ set in the summer of 1969. Also in this section are some familiar characters from earlier poems such as Brown Helen and Catrin Sands.
In the final sequence we meet ‘Davy Blackrock’: washed-up songwriter and modern day alter ego of Dafydd y Garreg Wen (David of the White Rock), alias David Owen (1720-1749), the blind, 18th century harpist and composer who fell asleep on a hill and dreamt the famous song which bears his name. In contrast to David of the White Rock, Davy Blackrock, ‘star of an ashen town’, drags his guitar from street to hotel to bedsit, an unsettled ghost who dreams of the perfect song.
I cannot see the flowers at my feet…
Keats – ‘Ode to a Nightingale.’
They look and wonder what they’re doing here,
those who’ve moved with me across the years –
Dylan Thomas, Picasso, Nightingale Ann,
Goble, David Trevorrow, young Fanny Brawne…
all strewn about this flat where I hide.
(Did I dream, last night, of a tide
laying its artefacts on sand?) They stare
but do not judge, or change, or care.
Dylan’s just opened Manhattan’s cigar box.
‘Try one,’ he says, ‘before you die. Fuck books.’
Pablo’s still pushing against his pane.
He listens for a nightingale in vain.
Goble tilts back in his top hat.
He and Trevorrow could not have shared a flat
but I loved them both, and Fanny Brawne.
There are crows on my roof. The light has gone.