A Graph Review
60 with highpoints 70
By Alun Rees.
Published by dinas, an imprint of Y Lolfa Cyf.
978 086243783 1
Published 2005, paperback £4.95
should still be available, maybe direct, see: www.ylolfa.com
Alun Rees is now retired but worked as a journalist all his life. A man of Merthyr and a founder member of the Red Poets, a group of Welsh, political, radical poets active with website, events and annual magazine.
The 38 poems for this collection were written between 1984 to 2004, some previously published and in some cases tweaked for this volume.
Consistently political and nationalistic from a red-blooded Welsh poet. Radical Socialist member and persistent socialist, it would seem, to this very day. The poems all burst with political history mixed with views of the hard scenery and the hard industrial and personal lives of the Welsh. Radical in as much as angry at the Injustice of history to working class people, of people to people. A big element is relating to Wales and the working-class but he is not blinkered and his concern frequently spreads much wider with the same energy and anger at world issues. Of course, if you are Welsh, from Merthyr Tydfil, you have good reason to take such a stance. Throughout we are given images in a steadfast, straightforward storytelling mode. Colour, force and wit thrive amongst all subjects and the various rhythms and balanced rhyme schemes make for voracious reading.
Poems of local streets and people. The miners, to Cardiff and widening out to the world. Glimpses of prehistory, Revolution and Rorke’s Drift. The crow finds its dark place too. The slightly gentler poems are Daughter, Ruin and Lost with the latter two moving and calmer but still true to his language and stance. ( Ruin is ultimately a more common themes for poets but here Alun seems to be presenting, unusually, a melancholic personal as well as political face.)
The last poem in this collection Dic Penderyn’s Farewell, is once again an indictment of English power over Wales and the last verse shows Rees’s own position and that of his fellow travellers.
Lord, when you judge me, please recall
That I fought to ease my fellow’s plight.
I never had much, but I gave it all,
And I go alone into the night.
For me this has been a significant collection to read. Evocative and emotional rides that bring images to a clear focus. I am not Welsh but have visited and have always appreciated the countryside and its villages and towns, especially around the Valleys. It all seems so, ‘Real’. Why the shape and furl of some scenery is more evocative than others I cannot say but like the scenery of the Valleys, Alun Rees’s poetry will stand out as both pure Welsh poetry and true Socialism. If one had a Complete Works to read and qualify there would be the worry that the almost continuous politicking nature would pall. However I also suspect, in fact expect, the actual variety and historic span of his poetry, mixed with the personal memoir and knowledge would create a most powerful document to the Welsh as a Nation and its working-class as representative of the world’s.
As always with new, favourite poets I find it hard to select a small number of examples but have to :
Valley Fighters; Cousin Glyn; Geese; La Maja Desnuda; The Cabbages of Maidanek; Daughter.
I am off to read more of Alun Rees and other Red Poets, and more as published by: ylolfa