Dunes of Cwm Rheidol – John Barnie
Walking the razor edge between grim reality and stoicism, John Barnie once again brings his intelligence, wit and prescient anger to bear on the world we inhabit and the world we are making. In spine-chilling imagery and with a linguistic dexterity that makes words shine, we are taken to a landscape that is exquisite and familiar, yet simultaneously overwhelmed with wreckage and grief. Staring not only into time’s abyss, but into the carnage wrought by human desire for more and more…, these urgent poems carry our collective grief for all that is lost—‘there was no one to grieve / so I walked beside them, taking it on.’ (‘Dead Swans on a Winter Coast’)
And alongside the losses, cultural and ecological, there is also vision, searing and politically acute. Prophetic in the tradition of Robinson Jeffers, but with the lyric compression of William Carlos Williams, whose words provide the epigraph for this collection, Barnie imagines his quiet rural homeland occupied and brutalised in the central sequence, ‘Occupied’: ‘the safety net / so full of holes you couldn’t catch a whale in it […]/ I knew the days of iridescence were lost for ever.’ (‘Iridescence’). While in ‘M.A.D.: The Sequel’ rhymes skip along with an irony reminiscent of William Blake’s use of nursery rhyme metre to convey horror. As the world is incinerated we hear: ‘cry if you must / there was no one to gather / the heart’s dust.’
Never for the faint-hearted, Dunes of Cwm Rheidol, is John Barnie at the height of his powers, writing poetry that is heart-breaking and true.
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.