If a novel can be likened to a movie, and a short story to a snap shot, what metaphor can we apply to a poem? To me, good poetry is the soul’s graffiti, like initials carved into the trunk of an ancient tree, linked by a moss-encrusted heart. The marks are scant, but a greater story can be divined from their simple existence. Jamie Spracklen’s poems are carved with care.
Many things contribute towards a good poem: the words themselves, the rhythm the poet conjures when he or she puts those words together, and the general mood created by the words they choose. But there is another amorphous thing beyond this: the music of the poem, indefinable and personal. I believe it is the music that speaks to us most clearly, that touches our hearts, makes us pause and actually think for a moment. A true poet understands that the art is not about crowding a lot of image-charged words into a space, but about using the space between the words – carefully chosen – to create a pure and simple image, loaded with meaning. A good poem contains the heart of stillness, which allows its message to sink softly into our minds. When I first read Jamie’s poems, I was carried initially by their carefully-crafted rhythm, the ease with which my eyes travelled the words, but then the meaning came through, like the echo of a plucked string.
As co-editor of the small press fantasy magazine, ‘Visionary Tongue’, a lot of poetry passed across my desk, most often describing in morbid Gothic tones the heartache of young love. Poetry seems to be the medium most aspiring writers turn to in the throes of romantic torment, but, harsh as it may seem, I always thought these angst-ridden odes really belonged to the secret pages of a diary rather than a magazine. Poetry is a language of love, yes, but so much more than that. It can be a sword-thrust into the heart of our culture, our world, our spirits. A few of the poems you’ll find in this collection touch upon the subject of love, but Jamie is always spare with his words, conveying a meaning with which we can all identify. For example, the last from ‘Tonight, My Heart is Broken’: ‘After the first touch, can there be another?’ Understated and clear, this simple couplet brings us up short, makes us pause to consider.
The poems in this collection reflect the poet’s journey through life, the observations he makes about many aspects of his and our existence, whether that’s his thoughts about a young beggar on the streets (‘Penetration’) or his feelings about time passing (‘Birthday Dissection’). The hard-hitting ‘Elegy for the Condoned Killer’ does far more to describe the horrors of war than any visceral description of actual fighting. ‘Conversation With a Forgotten God’ invokes the melancholy of a dispossessed pagan deity, but also conveys the enduring immanence of natural spirituality, however much mainstream belief may have changed.
These are only a few examples. In every poem, Jamie’s gaze rests briefly upon an image, and with deft strokes, he draws a sketch of what he sees and feels. But his work touches more than one sense. After each poem is read, an echo lingers after, and an evanescent scent that presses upon our memories, makes us remember things we might have forgotten.
After publishing several of Jamie’s poems in ‘Visionary Tongue’, I’m pleased to see he now has a collection of his work which I’m sure will be the first of many. Turn the page, walk into the forest and gaze at the carvings upon every tree. It might be that more than one of them bears your secret name.
Elegy For The Condoned Killer
Last Night I Dreamed Of My Fame
Ode To Your Cremation (For Phoenix)
The Death Of The Fan’s Hero
Colloquy To Time
Shadow Of Conformity
Before The Below
Conversation With A Forgotten God
Tonight, My Heart Is Broken
To Virginia Poe
The Last Bus Crowd
Weak Soup (Port Talbot ’94)
For Those Who Have Ears To Hear
To purchase a printed copy of any of Jamie’s collections please contact him for details.
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