'Garden Of Clouds'
New and Selected
Poems Peter Thabit Jones
'Garden Of Clouds'
New and Selected
Poems Peter Thabit Jones
The art and strength of poetry mean that all really good poems are deceptively simple, at least when first encountered. Deceptive because all truly impressive poetry is the end result of hard and often lengthy crafting. For many years, the poems of Dylan Thomas, someone with whom Peter Thabit Jones is well acquainted, was thought wrongly to be the product of lazy free association because of their opulent wordiness, when in fact they were the outcome of extensive word-research and re-drafting. Peter’s literary CV tells you that his work is not the result of leisurely inspiration but has been carefully and intelligently shaped. Take these lines from the opening poem in the collection, ‘Eastside Hill’
“The patchwork of my fields steals the black breath of the grass
That floods the eyes of the refugee fox
The birds, disturbed, are the words of the wind
And the graveyard of the dead worship my silence.”
Such visual, emotional and descriptive wordplay is not achieved without thought, talent and devoted effort.
Deceptive too because poetry constructed to achieve a fluent effortlessness of style often reads too easily and it is only with concentration or subsequent re-reading that you notice the richness and fluency of the images and connections the poet achieves. Take that description of the fox as refugee or how a flight of birds disturbed become the “words of the wind”. In a poem about an aunt, Peter describes the house in which he and his parents lived as “scented with poverty” and in another cruelly gossiping wives.
The latest victim
To their cross of scandal”
At this point, we are only a few poems into a collection of sixty-nine and in addition to this consummate phrasing we realise that the poems deal with nature and human issues with extraordinary empathy and sensitivity. A snobbish unfeeling aunt, an over-worked horse, a damaged and distant grandfather, the natural injustice of a teenager with cerebral palsy, a wife scolding her drunken husband with “the wondrous weather of her words” – a cynghanedd chiming alliteration**. Take the opening lines of a poem about a widow,
"Something has left her and it’s bigger than her grief
More hurting than his wardrobe of stale clothes
The bathroom tap, she feels, requires fixing,
It’s dripping seems like weeping in her mind”
The poem recognises that there is more to grief than the obvious cliches of sadness and loneliness, the many faceted hole left in a life, the loss of meaning expressed by a stunning congruence of a dripping tap (which might have been remedied by the dead partner) and the weeping his death precipitated.
There are some powerful poems on politics and justice. ‘Soliloquy of a Leader’ is about an unidentified dictator, about demagogues of all political leaning, and is as succinct, angry and exact as Dylan Thomas’s ‘The hand that signed the paper’ in its condemnation of the marriage of power and heartlessness.
“Now I am bored, my gloved hands are restless
I could redden all these towns with their blood”
The poem which follows it contains this chilling laconic observation
These poems tackle the dark failings and corruption of human existence with a measured balance of pity and anger.
Several poems honour other poets, Robert Frost, R.S. Thomas , Edward Thomas, Arthur Rimbaud and inevitably, the poet who thought himself a Welsh Rimbaud, Dylan Thomas, whose “circus of bad behaviour” is immediately identifiable in ‘Poet Game’.
Peter can embrace humour too, as in the poem ‘Elvis Lookalikes Competition’
“In their blue suede shoes, with their king-size dreams
These sleek, cool cats and fat, bejewelled snowmen”
Notice the clever double meaning of ‘king-size’ with its subtle reference to Elvis’s overweight Vegas years and there is a mass of Presley song titles cleverly tucked inside this poem.
Among the poets commemorated in the collection is the late Aeronwy Thomas in one of several poems set in Big Sur on the mountainous coast of California where Peter was writer-in-residence from 2010 to 2019. Appropriately enough there are tinges of cynghanedd chiming in this poem as in this line which mimics the sound of waves breaking
“A lap-lapping coll. . . apse, a lap-lapping coll. . .apse”
And later in
“The loud crashing crush-crush
The loud crushing crash-crash”
There is something deeply comforting in a poem which remembers a lost friend by describing the ocean breaking on a shore. It is a poignant eulogy with many beautiful lines, that closes
"Here in Big Sur
At this yawning edge of the world
With its last amens
With its first hallelujahs
And all the godly motion
Of all of the oceans”
These poems are unashamedly spiritual something which has been much out of fashion in modern poetics for some time and they are, to wring a cliché, a breath of fresh air. They assert that, as Vince Clemente says in his quote on the back cover, being is believing. They affirm our human connection with the natural world from which we have become so distanced and our fractured connection with one another. They are also rooted in the cultural preoccupations of Welsh poetry and its search to resolve the enigmas of life. I would urge you to read them.
Born in Wales, Peter Thabit Jones is a bilingual poet, author, and dramatist. He co-produced a ‘walking tour’ guide of Dylan Thomas’s New York with Thomas’s daughter Aeronwy which has been published in print, as a smartphone app, as a podcast and documentary film. His first collection of poems, ‘Tacky Brow’ was published in 1974 and several collections and dramas have been produced in English and Romanian. His work has been published in numerous countries as diverse as the USA, China, Romania, Iran, Italy, Korea and Russia and translated into over twenty languages. In 2008 he and Aeronwy Thomas Ellis toured America giving readings and workshops. He has been a writer-in-residence in California, vising poet in Romania, has won numerous awards for poetry and written the libretto for an opera. Peter is the founder and editor of ‘The Seventh Quarry Swansea Poetry Magazine’. ‘Garden of Clouds’, a collection of new and selected poems, was published in 2020 by Cross-Cultural Communications, New York. For more information about Peter and his work visit
**Cynghanedd is the 700 year old traditional poetry of Wales based on strict rules of meter and using alliterative ‘consonant chiming' and both internal and external rhyme.
The name translates as ‘harmony’ reflecting the musicality of its word play.