Poetry Centre

Weekly Poem for 1 December 2008

  • For the cosmonauts

    I, Yuri Gagarin, having not seen God,
    wake now to the scrollwork of a body,
    to my own white fibres leafing into the bone:
    know that beyond this dome of rain there is
    only the nothing where the soul sweeps
    out its parallax like a distant star and truth
    brightens to X, to gamma, through a metal sail.

    So I return to you, cramming your pockets
    with the atmosphere and evening news,
    fumbling for gardens in the moon’s shadow,
    in its waterfalls of silence. I wish for you
    familiar towns, their piers and amusement arcades
    unpeopled at dusk, the unicorn tumbling by
    on china hooves behind the high walls
    of parks, among congregating lamps.

    May you find Earth rising there, between
    your steepled hands. May your voyages
    end. May you have a cold unfurling
    of limbs each morning, when I am fallen
    out of the world.

    by Meirion Jordan

    from Moonrise, published by Seren in November 2008.

    Finely held moods and moments resonate throughout this unusually accomplished first book. The rich, complex history of Wales often crops up in expected places, as in the post industrial imagery of ‘A Camera at Senghenydd Pit’, and then, in often unexpected contexts: ‘The New World’ is a vision, a cross between ‘Under Milk Wood’ and an early J.G. Ballad novel, of post-global warming Wales, with a polyglot population: “Ronaldinho Davies/wowing the crowds at the Millennium Stadium” and swamped by tropical vegetation: “cobalt lizards and coral snakes/swallowing the cottages in Llandinam/the mahoganies uprooting Carno’s hearths”. Another apocalyptic scenario prevails in ‘Pirate Music’ where a typical weekend in the binge-drinking culture unravels vividly as one of Dante’s circles of Hell.

    Such inversions of myth are rife in this book. There is a freshness with which classical motifs echo in thoroughly modern contexts. A girl on a motorbike: “you fly your hair like a flag” is a glimpse of a goddess at speed. ‘The Head of an athlete in an Ionian shipwreck’ is the past as ghost: “his smile as white as alum”. What starts as portraiture sometimes veers off in darkly mysterious incantatory digressions as in ‘The Magdalen College Chef’ whose “souffles bloom from a dipped fork./Upstairs his ragouts seethe under the grins of dons and demons”.

    There are also clever, out-and-out satires like ‘The Nuclear Disaster Appreciation Society’ where “We love to watch/the palm trees beating in the thorium breeze...” and ‘Blockbuster Season’ where the protagonist is bizarrely ensnared by the cliché plots and B-list actors of the cinema “Darth Vader using my Ford Fiesta to escape from Colditz...”. The plot twists and clever inversions available in these poems often recall science fiction writers like Philip K. Dick. Engaging, musically deft, an intelligence that wears its learning lightly, this is a sparkling debut from one of the most promising young poets Wales has seen in some time.

    Meirion Jordan was born in 1985 in Swansea, Wales, read Mathematics at Somerville College, Oxford, and is currently studying in the University of East Anglia Writing programme. He won the Newdigate Prize in 2007 and has been published in Poetry Wales, the TLS, and Gallous, amongst other places. He is influenced by poets David Constantine, Andrew Waterhouse, Gillian Clarke, Geoffrey Hill, Byzantine & mediaeval art, music and science fiction.

    Seren is an independent literary publisher, specialising in English-language writing from Wales. Our diverse and eclectic list has something to offer anyone with an interest in excellent writing. Our aim is not simply to reflect what is going on in the culture in which we publish, but to drive that culture forward, to engage with the world, and to bring Welsh literature, art and politics before a wider audience.

    Please visit our website for more information on our authors and titles.

    Apologies to the handful of you who also received this poem by e-mail in October. Our software wasn't working properly then and the poem only reached the first twenty on the maillist, and we didn't want the other 650 to miss out.