Little Man examines what it means to be alive. Never boastful of its wares, it is a collection that shows Richard James Jones isn't afraid to get his hands dirty - exploring the frustrations of his craft, strange graffiti on an old shed, or even casting a keen eye to the detritus that washes up on the beach.
Casgliad o gerddi gan Richard James Jones yn arddangos sylwgarwch manwl a synwyrusrwydd dan reolaeth, wrth ddarlunio pethau oriog a didoreth bywyd megis broc môr a graffiti.
A neat and powerful début collection from this award-winning poet, Little Man provides a rich and exciting read. Highly observant, Richard James Jones’s vibrant and spirited poems work to gather the minutiae of life that form the bigger picture with vitality and passion.
With grit included and refreshingly real, the poems present reminders of those tricky moments when we are faced with our fallible selves: sometimes dark, the focus is often on the surface of things but soon reaches the underbelly, the pain and complications of existence. The short ‘Washed Up’ poems which appear at intervals throughout the book capture the moments of attempting to escape into an absent vista, only to be faced with the ongoing debris of humans and other creatures:
‘1.41 am 4.4m.
One gull, the eye picked clean,
missing a left wing.
2.17 am 4.52m.
Mangoes, a broken crate –
Rubens, Ripe To Perfection.’
Sensory and brooding poems such as ‘Wild Bloom’ and ‘Homemakers’ refer to aspects of the natural world as they invade the space of the inhabitants and merge together until wholly integrated: ‘we smelt plants darken. Heard puffballs expand’. James Jones captures physical, tactile forces well and is able to craft his poetic language to capture the harshness and detail of life: the short, stark piece ‘What We Learn’ is a reminder of the fallibility of human ‘knowledge’, often to tragic and farcical proportions: ‘The following winter goldfish froze to the surface of/the pond. A stray cat struggled, stuck by the tongue to the ice.’
Where there is humour, there is also seriousness in poems such as ‘Len’s Engineering Services’ (‘Len actually has nothing to do with this poem./This is a poem about Tony’), and we are taken on an amusing circuit and play with words as a rail journey reveals a half-obscured piece of graffiti on the door: ‘I would in fact prefer to imagine that someone thinks Tony is a cutie or a culinary genius,/However, judging by Len’s shed’. Meanwhile, the boldly titled ‘This is a Love Poem’ is a promise of a sensuous and dark journey through a wood of ‘bosky mist and bear traps’, and the exceptionally moving poem ‘Waves’ resonates with human loss.
There are no dull moments in this very striking first collection, which is skilfully produced as a whole, with each dynamic, singular poem resonating, inviting multiple readings through seasoned and well crafted layers. This vibrant début collection is a must for lovers of poetry.
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.
Richard James Jones was born in Swansea, where he continues to live and work whilst also studying for a PhD in Creative and Critical Writing at Bangor University. He has been published in a number of British and international journals, including Poetry Wales, Magma and The Rialto. Richard has also been the recipient of two awards. In 2011 he was awarded a place working with the poet Paul Henry as part of the Academi mentoring programme. In 2013, a Literature Wales New Writers' Bursary allowed him to take a sabbatical from teaching to concentrate on completing Little Man.
‘[Richard James] Jones is that rare thing: a poet, of variousness, experiment and surprise’ New Welsh Review