In these poems, Jeremy Brooks is a master of mystery and clarity. There is an unpretentious, timeless, flowing beauty in this collection. They reflect the Welsh valley where even the grass is wonderful and the river sings at the top of its voices as it crashes over the rocks towards the sea. (Tribute by Adrian Mitchell on book cover.)
Daw dawn Jeremy Brooks fel bardd i'r amlwg yn y casgliad hwn. Ceir yn y cerddi hyn harddwch syml a digyfnewid. Maen nhw'n portreadu'r dyffryn Cymreig lle mae'r borfa yn lasach a'r afon yn sisial yn uchel wrth lifo i'r môr.
Jeremy Brooks died in 1994. Famous for his work in the theatre, TV and radio as a playwright and adaptor of foreign classics (for the RSC and Theatr Clwyd), he was also a successful novelist but is not well-known as a poet.
A few of the poems here appeared singly in the 50s but, unfortunately, much of his later poetry was mysteriously lost. Although born in Southampton and working much in London, Wales seems to have been his chosen home and its mountains inspired much of this poetry. His experiments with form, particularly internal and half-rhymes, may indicate an interest in Welsh poetry, but these features are also evident in Auden's work of the same period.
The title of the selection I feel is inaccurate - in fact, it opens with several London poems. His ‘On Waterloo Bridge’ is perhaps a conscious update of Wordsworth's from Westminster Bridge, but already shows Brooks' most persistent theme: the need to appreciate the beauty of the world amid the rush of daily life. The city's beauty, however, seems ultimately cruel and devouring; the Welsh poems, for all the persistence of rain and the danger of mountains, describe a more positive, vibrant power.
Although there is little direct reference to the war, Brooks' experiences in it may well have sharpened his sense of seizing the moment and taking risks in order to live fully. Not being sufficiently aware and alive is, to him, the worst kind of death. ‘Death of Our Own Making’ is one of the best expressions of this. His poems to those he loved have the same sense of risk and fragility. This may come out in rueful humour, as in ‘Loving You Leaves Me Naked’, in the understated longing of ‘The Garden Gate’ or the fearful intensity of ‘One Noisy Autumn Day’. ‘Margaret’, written for his daughter, captures both the ultimate cold-war fears of the 50s and his own loving hope for her.
His poetry and his mountaineering seem to have both been part of the same quest: ‘We are not tame, we fear the night,/ We seek ourselves. Frail is our name.’ In ‘Relationships’ the moment of revelation is brief and hard to capture: ‘We shall never/ Remember the order or the knowledge/ After the moment; but remember/ Only the moment's feel, like a river/ Remembering a bridge.’ Jeremy Brooks was famous for many talents; this selection adds to these his poetic work which, until now was known only to his friends.
It is possible to use this review for promotional purposes, but the following acknowledgment should be included: A review from www.gwales.com, with the permission of the Welsh Books Council.
Gellir defnyddio'r adolygiad hwn at bwrpas hybu, ond gofynnir i chi gynnwys y gydnabyddiaeth ganlynol: Adolygiad oddi ar www.gwales.com, trwy ganiatâd Cyngor Llyfrau Cymru.