Youth & Happiness


Nothing like Love, Jenny Joseph (48pp, 9.99, Enitharmon)


Take a look at Jenny Joseph's first poem in Nothing like Love:

                         
Fancy Free
  
                          It was the time of daffodils
                          And I fancy free
                          So free; as free
                          As birds that home to nest
                          Propelled by the season:
                          And how free are they?

It's that word 'daffodils' that seems to whack me between the eyes. 'Daffodils' stand out like yellow traffic jackets in a motorway pile up. The word daffodils in a poem takes me to only one place, and that is beside a lake beneath and beneath a trees. I scan the horizon for lonely clouds and things that flutter in the breeze. Yet aren't these daffodils marvellous. For some inexplicable reason I love this line 'It was a time of daffodils'. Perhaps the reason for this 'loving' is the context of words which follow it. We don't wander into a pastoral idyll along the Milky Way, but we do wander into an emotional idyll - one where the poet was young and carefree and happy as the grass was green. Shades of Thomas and other lyrical proponents find the air. And lyrical they - almost rejoicing in song:

                       
A CHILD EXPECTING VISITORS

                      
I heard you were coming and
                       Thrum thrum thrum
                       Went something in my heart like a
                       Drum drum drum

And:

                      
Baby's Song

                       
Ding-dong              the voices in your head
                                                       the voices in your head

                        Ding- dong             they fall like gold and lead-
                                                       en voices in your head

                        Sing-song                the flyers in the sky
                                                       wings cutting through the sky /

I wanted not to be moved by these poems but for some reason I was. A bit like a dreadful tune the you can't get out of your head - an - 'O you Chitty Chitty Bang Bang ... We love you...'. Or a 'Whaats tha maataaa yoo - ah shuttupa yar face!'

But to get back to the book's theme 'Love'. These are traditional love poems in the main  -and tortured love at that:

                     
Euridyce

                     
My love has power to force the sea's return
                               Up the black rocks. preserve forever its foam //

                      My love could make the dead cherry-tree stir
                              White in the growing grass, had power to give
                      A paradise to the desert, shyness to the wolf
                               But not to make me live.


                    
Great Sun

                   //Storm wind
                     That brings the clouds
                     Huge and heavy, stifling up the heavens
                     Push on, push them over
                     So the the flattened garden can be righted
                     And love recover.

Jenny Joseph's poems are sincerely and deeply felt: they are philosophical and well observed; they hanker for a time of youth and happiness. What they lack in poetic craft and guile they make up for in truth - absolute.

              James McLaughlin 2010