Link to purchase on Amazon:- Bring The Rising Home!
For anyone who is unacquainted with the historical details of the 1831 Merthyr Rising, the following link should be of some assistance - Merthyr Rising. Of course, the most thorough and authoritative account of these events can be found in Gwyn Williams' - The Merthyr Rising.
The Rising is commemorated with an annual festival in Castle Street, Merthyr where twenty four of the protestors were shot and killed in 1831. This collection was published to coincide with the 2017 event.
The anthology consists of 25 poems (four in Welsh with English translations) and accompanying illustrations by Welsh artist Gustavius Payne. For more details about Mike Jernkins and Gustavius Payne please see the biographical details and links at the bottom of this page.
In 'Ble?' Mike Jenkins asks:-
Ble mae'r enwau'r pedwerydd ar hugain,
gafodd eu saethu gan y fyddin?
Where are the names of the twenty-four,
killed by the army in this square?
Other poems in the collection directly refer to the historical events of 1831 but more concern themselves with contemporary living conditions in Merthyr Tydfil and elsewhere.
In 'Bag Full of Writings (For Merthyr Rock Bands)' we meet a street poet/songwriter who is down on his luck:-
He's been living in the dole age
since they invented it;
his plasticine face moulded
by worry and rage.
A chance encounter with a young lad fresh out of Swansea jail is immortalised in 'Outa Jail':-
Don' know wha I woz doin, see,
pissed outa my ead-
least I gotta job washin cars,
better 'an-a las one
in-a juice factree
all overtime, no breaks an unions,
treated like bloody sheep.
Many of Mike's poems give voice to the disadvantaged, the homeless and the destitute. For example 'In Portland, Oregon' recounts an incident at the local bus station when a homeless person temporarily waylaid Mikes bus when he was on his way to a West Coast Eisteddfod event in the town:-
A downtown junkie came out
from the toilet ranting
and hi-jacked our bus,
the black woman driver calming him
until the cops turned up.
The collection ends with the somewhat disturbing 'We Want it Back!' in which the protagonists are heard to demand:-
We want it back
we want our country back!
We want Grammar Schools
(though not Sec-Mods),
where working-class kids
can achieve (well, a few of them)
we want corporal punishment
like the cane and the tawse,
pupils will be grateful
when they are abused
There is perhaps a certain irony in demanding a partial return to conditions that once led to insurrectionary violence and bloodshed in the streets. But, Mike Jenkins is no preacher and readers are left to their own deliberations and to draw their own conclusions.
The illustrations are powerful and provocative throughout and perfectly evocative of Mike's poetic themes. In a note at the end of the book Gustavius Payne, after detailing their many shared interests, has this to say about his artistic collaboration with Mike Jenkins:-
"It may be that the basic ingredients of our artistic endeavours have more in common than many, and perhaps explains why the visual work I've done resonates so closely with the series of poems that Mike has written."
Whatever the shared background and interests, their collaboration has produced an outstanding book. We have no hesitation in recommending this collection to anyone with an interest in contemporary Merthyr, Welsh working class history or fine poetry and artwork.
Notes on Two Welsh Artists
Mike Jenkins is a retired teacher of English at comprehensive schools. He lives in Merthyr Tydfil, has co-edited 'Red Poets' for 23 years and has blogged weekly on his website www.mikejenkins.net since 2009. He runs creative writing workshops with children and adults and organises regular poetry events in Merthyr and elsewhere in south Wales. He is winner of the 1998 Wales Book of the Year for a book of short stories, Wanting To Belong (Seren); his latest book of poetry is in Merthyr vernacular Sofa Surfin' (Carreg Gwalch); and he was shortlisted for the Bread and Roses Poetry Award 2017.
Gustavius Payne is a Welsh figurative artist, represented by Ffin-Y-Parc Gallery, Llanrwst, where his work is regularly exhibited and held in stock. His paintings are also held in collections including at the University of South Wales and the Museum of Modern Art, Wales. He has exhibited regularly since 1994 including a touring exhibition with Mike jenkins in 2011/2012, funded by Arts Council Wales.