By Jonathan Edwards
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Gen is a book of lions and rock stars, street parties and servants, postmen and voices. In the opening sequence’s exploration of youth and young manhood, the author sets his own Valleys upbringing against the ’50s youth of his parents and the experience of a range of pop culture icons, including Kurt Cobain and Harry Houdini. These poems give way to a sequence of monologues and character sketches, giving us the lives of crocodiles and food testers, pianists and retail park trees. Other poems place a Valleys village and the characters who live in it alongside explorations of Welsh history and prehistory, and the collection concludes with a selection of sometimes witty, sometimes heartfelt love poems.
With his characteristic humour, warmth, formal range and swaggering music, Jonathan Edwards delivers a worthy follow-up to his popular and critically-lauded debut.Tweet
Gen by Johnathan Edwards
1) reviewed by Kathy Livingstone
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ This is a treasure trove of poems covering a wide spread of subjects. I’ve never been an avid fan of free verse but despite that I found myself incredibly captivated by the content of this anthology - so varied, charming, humorous, poignant and so life-affirming. Every poem is a story fabricated from a fleeting moment and memory in time. What really fascinated me was the way Edwards creates ‘memories’ of events which he couldn’t possibly have experienced personally because he just wasn’t born! Some of the poems actually testify to this fact. The poems dealing with family characters seem to especially illustrate this ‘second hand’ memories angle. I guess this bears testament to a life filled with shared hours of detailed story telling and attentive listening (Edwards’ older relatives and himself respectively).
Early on, I thought I’d found my favourite in the Kurt Cobain poem which is like an ode to an iconic and tragic rockstar written from the perspective of a adult, remembering being a 12 year old living in Newport Wales, but knowing now what he didn’t know as the 12 year old. I love the playing with time, age and memory. Then I thought my favourite had to be Olympic 100m - playground joy colliding momentarily with world scandal and sporting politics. Then My Mother Cuts Her Arm 1955. I’ve used the full title because it beautifully encapsulates the tensions created inside the poem between the everyday accident, the catastrophic danger just waiting to happen and the drama, turmoil and self-inflicted guilt of the adult response. All packed into less than an A5 page of print - but isn’t that what poetry is? - the most condensed form of storytelling or picture painting.
At the time of writing this, I’ve only begun the third section but am genuinely looking forward to the surprises, delightful or otherwise, that I’m sure await me in the remaining poems. Truly, I’ll probably be even more hard pressed to find a favourite but that’s of absolutely no consequence. It’s only a bit of poetry 😉 Be sure to have a peek at Giraffe ...
2) reviewed by Pamela Tindall
A lovely collection of poems which can be read cover to cover or dipped into. The collection starts with poems about his parents and his youth in Wales. I particularly enjoyed the word pictures conjured up in ' My father buying sweets, 1956'. There is humour and affection and real talent as a wordsmith. He takes the mundane (Song of the retail park tree) and makes the reader pause, reflect and move on enriched.