|REVIEWS OF THE LIZARD CATCHERS/REVIEW OF THE BOY AND THE LION'S HEAD|
AMERICAN REVIEW - The Lizard Catchers
Welsh writer Peter Thabit Jones's latest poetry collection, The Lizard Catchers, concerns itself with small things and the small moments of life: ivy climbing a wall, snow melting, the ugly mystique of frogs, lunching in a noisy city pub and, of course, a boyhood quest to capture the small reptiles mentioned in the title. Generally speaking, the thirty-four poems in this collection are also small, in terms of length; most are shorter than a page, and a few less than ten lines. But there is nothing small about Jones's vision or his profound humanity, both of which shine through his musings on such universal subjects as grief, mortality and the innocent cruelty of children, for which his small, everyday subjects serve as unusual and striking portals.
It is not Jones's subject matter alone that makes him a strong poet and his work exemplary. He is an extraordinary poet because he understands, and utilizes, devices and techniques many poets today downplay or discard entirely: namely, rhyme (both external and internal) and meter. As the above quotation may indicate, a poem's rhythm is important to Jones: each line has exactly six syllables and the same pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables, which gives the first section of "The Cold Cold Corner" a cadence which feels as grave and measured as a dirge. Jones employs his understanding of meter throughout The Lizard Catchers, in such poems as "My Grandfather's Razor," "Volunteer Work: Special Needs" (a poem about working with special-needs children written in iambic pentameter) and "Watching the Sea: Swansea Bay."
In an age when rhyme is often considered the trademark of an unimaginative poet, or the worst kind of doggerel verse, Jones is also brave enough to use external rhymes in many of his poems, most strikingly in "The Boy and the Lion's Head," a poem about a young boy's terrifying encounter with a lion-shaped rock in Swansea, South Wales. Told from the boy's perspective, the poem uses a combination of hard and soft rhyme to create a feeling of running, and of rising dread:
Gwales.com REVIEW BY CLARE MAYNARD
'The recipient of several awards for his work - which includes six other collections of poetry and one collection of short stories - Peter Thabit Jones' new body of poems is diverse and touching, thanks to his sensitive yet powerful use of language.
The leading poem 'The Lizard Catchers' has many astute and succinct observations. He captures well those small moments in human life that are profound and potent. The powerful 'Psalm for the twentieth century' is a heartfelt poem about environmental damage -
With his wide range of subject matter and his dynamic way of representing intense emotions, his beautifully crafted poems engage us in the real world. There is a selection of poems for children towards the end of the book, all lively and concise, including the emotive 'Some people in other lands'. Overall, this is an intelligent and interesting collection of poems - definitely to be opened often.'
AMAZON.COM REVIEW - The Lizard Catchers
A first American edition, poetry for grown-ups and children, by ‘the new Dylan” from Swansea, Wales. It made an incredible impact on the audiences during the first Dylan Thomas Tribute Tour of America, Spring 2008, since the death of Dylan in 1953. Peter Thabit Jones has been established as a poet of stones and sunshine, a remarkable synthesis, which both inspires and enlightens, a new powerful, humanistic voice from Wales.
ROMANIAN REVIEW - The Boy and the Lion's Head, a verse drama
THE WAY OF INITIATION TO KILVEY HILL by Liviu Comşia
Review of THE BOY AND THE LION’S HEAD by Peter Thabit Jones, published by Citadela, Satu Mare, Romania, 2009. Introduction by Vince Clemente. Translated by Dr. Olimpia Iacob
The Romanian reader is, definitely, puzzled by such a book as The Boy and the Lion’s Head by Peter Thabit Jones ( Editura Citadela, Satu Mare, 2009, Romanian version: Olimpia Iacob) A verse drama? What else can such a dramatic text tell us? It is a theatrical formula in the past centuries that even then addressed itself rather to some distinguished sensitivities than to the ordinary spectator who wanted to know he focused the attention of the playwright who facilitated his mounting the stage with all the burdens of his life.
It is true that in the epoch verse drama met with success on the Romanian stage. The staging of verse dramas such as “Vlaicu Vodă” by Al.Davila or “Trandafirii Roşii” by Zaharia Bârsan or “Înşir’te mărgărite” by Victor Eftimiu were moments that whirled the life of the theatre. Today, however, for the past two decades, these texts have disappeared from the stage repertoire, becoming chapters in the history of Romanian theatre. There are no other similar dramas to have been written and I have no idea about any attempts made at having revitalized the formula or, well, re-adapted it. The contemporary spectator is less willing to listen to the rhymed or rhythmed speeches in iambus or trochee. He finds it quite obsolete because it does no longer express his life with which time is no longer patient, it is completely technologized, invaded by raw images that remove any Romantic sensitivity.
But, there is, nevertheless, a dramatic formula Welsh poet Peter Thabit Jones (born in 1951 in Swansea, Wales, UK), proposes to us, “adapted”, if we may say so, to the mentality of the show in the XXIst century, with all its anguishes brought about by the growing technical artificiality of existence. Not accidentally does the poet give his poem the subtitle (for it is about a poem after all) “verse drama for five characters”, allowing us to add their nominalization. Because the poet names his characters only generically (The Unknown Man, The Unknown Woman, The Grandfather, the Grandmother, the Boy), a formula often met with the contemporary playwrights that “stick”, therefore, to the spectators become co-authors, pushing the stage development towards generalization. Peter Thabit Jones also does it, but, as we will see, in a direction different from the one we are used to and , of course, with unusual consequences.
In a letter to Vince Clemente (who also comments on the dramatic text) the poet writes:
“I am attaching something I have worked on, off and on, for ten years:my verse drama, The Boy and the Lion’s Head . I hope you will find time to read it. There is much of me, and what made me a poet, in it. I wrote it for radio, but it could be staged, ideally with music. I have tried to show the impact language/words make on a small boy’s imagination: in a narrative of impending grief. The old man’s Somme reality is the young boy’s end-of-the world fantasy (a fantasy powered by the power of childhood myth and the old man’s ragged ramblings of war-wreathed truths).Ultimately, for me at least, it is the story of the need for love.”
The very introduction of some daily elements, of our mentality and perceptions, that explain the actual setting where the community by Kilvey Hill lives its life, are able to make possible the understanding, the coming nearer to the word essence. Kilvey Hill is not only a simple form of relief, it is what once the Greeks called Olymp, where the life surrounding it flows according to the laws of nature and within their framework. The hill is both a witness and a participant at the same time, in all the moments of existence, or even more, it guards and confirms their existence in time:
The hill I climbed and climbed as a small girl:
All the characters without exception are in one way or another related to this Hill: it is here that they were born, that they suffered, that they loved, later on giving the poems “the raw matter” to pass over the centuries the image of their life, as it was fated by destiny. Even the apocalyptic fancy of the Old Man comes into being here, too, and becomes frightful as any end of civilization and world.
As a matter of fact, we speak about the initiation way of a child who moves away from Kilvey Hill in quest of the essential force of life. The grandparents’ wisdom is but the staff against which he props:
My love is giving his body shelter.
My love is giving the pain he will know.
The boy lives between two questions that increase the enigma. His parents are enveloped with the veil of mystery.
Where is my wild-haired runaway mother?
As we can see, the clearing up of the existential mystery is an invading, eternal, enslaving attempt that makes use of all the human qualities. The knowing of the Evil, for instance, not accidentally introduced by the Unknown Man, produces dramatic moments, prosodicalLy supported at high tensions by the poet:
The Devil’s Cave, dark mouth
In all this initiation journey the Boy is guided by the Unknown Man and the Unknown Woman, to all appearances two characters, in reality only one in two guises, that sequentially share their initiation path. The Boy asks himself:
How far does the sea go?
How far does the land go?
How far does the sky go?
How far does the day go?
The Unknown people know the answer that is in man. It is the boy’s song that lets us know it:
Weep flowers, weep
Sigh tall trees, sigh
Pray strange day, pray
Sleep dead ones, sleep
Though the temptation is great we are not willing to come up to Ulysis, who first drew the way to initiation. Maybe to Joyce. But for all of them there remains the fascination of the mythical process of initiation which man begins once he is born and ends it as soon as he passes away. Even Peter Thabit Jones, who writes his artistic biography through the Boy, does not make any exception. He, the Poet, crosses this way to discover “the Lion’s Head” in a dramatic clash between himself and the enigma itself. Here there is no golden means: the human qualities are triumphant or, insufficient or not properly used they provoke the tragedy of the end.
The way of knowledge is never a romantic walk. It is always hard, unforeseeable, tragic. The great art of the poet consists in the introduction of those daily elements by which he brings the Boy closer to us. The war, for instance, obsessively recurs because nothing more absurd has ever been invented by man! In a word, I have read a poem that can be performed by each of us. Because each of us covers this way of initiation. Peter Thabit Jones opens the horizon to Kilvey Hill for us, describing by the quasi-totality of the poetic techniques the way he has taken himself to solve the world enigma that is life.