A review of Welsh poet and novelist Mike Jenkins new anthology Barkin. "A former winner of the Wales Book of the Year competition for 'Wanting to Belong' (Seren), Jenkins is a former editor of Poetry Wales and a long-term coeditor of 'Red Poets'."
It is always a pleasure to welcome a new anthology from one of Wales most renowned and talented poets. But 'Barkin' is no ordinary poetry anthology. A quick scan of the contents page reveals that this collection comprises 31 poems and 3 short stories and the titles reveal a common theme. The poems and short stories,'Settin Fire t Tesco's' and 'The Girl oo become Blonde' to name but two, are all written in Merthyr dialect and mainly from the perspective of persons who are struggling, or perhaps failing, to survive economic hardship.
That is not to suggest that there is a lack of humour in these pages. Far from it. In 'Fish Foot Clinic, a patron of the Wyndham Arms ( one of Britain's "top 10 'ardest pubs" ) visits the recently opened clinic and announces:-
'I wan mine done!' ee demands,
'on'y make it f****n piranhas,
not them poncy fish yew do ewse!
Aye, they cun feed off my tattoos.
On'y piranhas are ard enough
fr a pair o feet like these.'
In 'Settin fire t Tesco's' we find a beneficiary/victim of Britain's 'benefit culture' indulging in a form of individual protest against his straitened economic circumstances:-
I woz liftin clothes tha's all
coz I carn afford none:
arf my benefit goes to-a dealer
an the rest is jest f survivin.
The poems and stories all focus on ordinary working class life at the sharp end in Camerons 'condemnation' and if the protagonists all appear to be 'barkin' it is perhaps an inevitable response to impossible or overwhelming circumstance.
From his Wikipedia entry we learn that Mike Jenkins took voluntary redundancy from teaching in 2009 and 'now writes full-time capitalising on experiences gleaned from former pupils.' This collection demonstrates what a rich vein Mike is working and provided you can cope with the dialect, will provide chuckles, inspiration and food for thought for a paltry 7.50 GBP ( $12 US ). Unreservedly recommended!!
'Barkin' is published by Gwasg Carreg Gwalch
Mike Jenkins blog
An interview with Mike Jenkins
'Journey of The Taf' Mike Jenkins
Review by Ceri Shaw Ceri Shaw on Google+