Poem Of The Week: 'Bamp' By Jonathan Edwards
Steve Whitaker, Literary Correspondent
If you were concerned about the overly-serious direction in which Poem of the Week is proceeding, then Newport-born Jonathan Edwards' 'Bamp' is a brazen antidote to the detached and sometimes turgidly introspective character of much modern poetry.
Taking a view of the 'Third Age' which is at once ribald and nakedly sincere, the poem is an affectionate, and witty, portrait of a man - presumably the poet's grandfather - declining gradually into loss of faculty and probable dementia.
That’s him, with the tweed and corduroy
skin, wearing the slack gloves of his hands,
those liver spots like big full stops. That’s him
passing time with his favourite hobby, which is
you know, pottering, or staring closely
at the middle distance, enjoying the magic tricks
his watch does. His pockets are for special things
he has forgotten, no one fills the holes
in crumpets like he does, and in his wallet
is a licence from the Queen and what it means
is he can say what the hell he likes and you
can’t do nothing. That’s him, with a cupboard full
of tea cosies, a severe hearing problem
round those he doesn’t like, gaps in his smile
and stories, a head full of buried treasure
and look, that’s him now, twiddling his thumbs
so furiously, it’s like he’s knitting air.
It’s only him can hold the air together.
Perspective is all in this pithy piece: spoken from the viewpoint of an unequivocally life-affirming narrator, 'Bamp' acts as a kind of corrective to the vicarious trepidation of poets like Philip Larkin, who turned fear of the ageing process and death into a species of contagion.
'Bamp', and indeed many of the poems in the fine volume - My Family and Other Superheroes - from which it is taken, offers moments of high comedy co-mingled with the poignant. With skilled use of metaphor and simile - Edwards' simple choice of words invariably 'nails' an impression in the imagination, often lastingly - he paints a fully-rounded, and effortlessly warm picture with great humour, and without sentiment.
That the poem is self-explanatory is a virtue that the disingenuously antediluvian Larkin, would have applauded. Poetry, as Roger McGough has spent a lifetime affirming, doesn't need to be interpretively-complex, or tragic, to be effective.
And clearly the judges of the prestigious Costa Prize for Poetry agreed: Edwards' book walked away with the award in 2014.
'Bamp' is taken from My Family and Other Superheroes and is published by Seren Books.
Poem Of The Week: 'Bamp' By Jonathan Edwards, 10th March 2018, 9:28 AM