A Report to Alpha Centauri – John Barnie
The sense of awe. not only at the grandeur of the universe but also the insignificance of our species is centre-stage in A Report to Alpha Centauri. And John Barnie sets out his stall early, warning, in the poem ‘To the Reader’, that you may want to walk away since, ‘…these poems are out there with the chilly wind / and the absence of yellowhammers, with drills and wrecking balls,…’ But anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear should surely stay, not to be comforted but to face the challenging questions, the unflinching honesty and the blazing anger at the hubris that is destroying so much life; life that even in what Conrad calls ‘a soulless universe’ still matters. Barnie calls us to ‘just look’, knowing that like all prophets he is ’… the stranger, the one / walking in the wrong direction.’ (Lock-step)
Serious and sometimes tinged with despair at humanity’s perverse race into self-destruction, captured in striking imagery that lingers, there is also a large and intelligent wit at play here that pours out in wry comments and melancholic humour. At heart, A Report to Alpha Centauri is a eulogy. Sharp, urgent and ultimately humane, this is not poetry that any of us should turn away from.
John Barnie is a poet and essayist from Abergavenny, Gwent. John lived in Denmark from 1969-1982 and was the editor of Planet, The Welsh Internationalist from 1990-2006. He has published several collections of poems, mixed poems and fiction, and two collections of essays, one of which, The King of Ashes, won a Welsh Arts Council Prize for Literature in 1990. His collection Trouble in Heaven (Gomer, 2007) was on the Wales Book of the Year 2008 Long List. Cinnamon Press has published several previous collections:The Forest Under the Sea, The Roaring Boys, Wind Playing with a Man’s Hat, Departure Lounge, and Sunglasses as well as his latest collections, the richly illustrated Afterlives and A Report to Alpha Centauri. Cinnamon also published the memoir, Footfalls in the Silence and an anthology of poetry and prose in honour of John Barnie, Wired to the Dynamo, edited by Matt Jarvis.
John plays guitar in the blues and poetry group Hollow Log. He is a Fellow of Yr Academi.