Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Poetry Matters (18): Peter Thabit Jones ~ 'Poems from a Cabin on Big Sur'

Poems from a Cabin on Big Sur by Peter Thabit Jones
Editor-Publisher: Stanley H. Barkan
Publishing House: Cross Cultural Communications, Merrick, New York, 2011
Photographs: Melissa Goese-Goble, Patricia Holt, Carolyn Mary Kleefeld, Linda Parker

Available from Cross-Cultural Communications, 239 Wynsum Avenue, Merrick, New York, 11566-4725, USA. Price $25 (hardback) $15 (paperback)

Launch of 'Poems from a Cabin on Big Sur' (Photo © David Gill 2011)

'I went on daily walks, alone, letting the island-like world seep into my very being ...'
Peter Thabit Jones, Preface, p.9

We were delighted to visit the stunning Studio Gallery of Swansea artist, Nick Holly, last Friday for the launch of Poems from a Cabin on Big Sur by Peter Thabit Jones. The work in this sparkling new collection brings us - in the apposite words of Vince Clemente - a vision of Peter, 'the man on Big Sur [observing] with the eyes of maturity, but [feeling] with the open heart of the boy on Kilvey.'

Big Sur, on the Central Coast of California, is adorned with the stunning combination of the St Lucia Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. It is a place well-loved by writers and those who seek natural wonder and solitude. Redwood and Monterey Pine adorn this region. It is an area of wide skies and horizons, where the rugged landscape is frequented not only by mountain lions but also by rare amphibians such as the California Giant Salamander (Dicamptodon ensatus).

In his Preface, Peter alludes to the fact that his spell as Writer-in-Residence in the Cabin on Big Sur followed in the tradition of a line of other writers and artists who had been equally influenced by this extraordinary wilderness (in the sense of 'expanse of wildness' rather than 'area of emptiness'). Jack Kerouac's novel, Big Sur, (1962), for example, arose out of his time in the same cabin.

Many of us dream of living the Robinson Crusoe experience. Most of us occasionally manage to hunt out small corners 'far from the madding crowd'. Writers like Dylan Thomas and R.S. Hawker beavered away in huts perched high above estuary and ocean. I like to write with one eye on the keyboard and the other on the wide sweep of Swansea Bay, as it spreads out beneath my window. Few of us, though, unlike Peter, have truly experienced the life of a poet in isolation - for real.

It is with these thoughts in my head that I plan to approach this collection as I read it more carefully and alongside the accompanying photographs in the days to come. I have already encountered poems that invite the reader to glimpse into the 'window's picture', as it conveys the poet's vision in terms of a dual sense of the 'so-close ocean' and the 'shores of the mind'.  


Crafty Green Poet said...

Oh I love Big Sur, though my memories of it are hazy as i was about nine when I visited!

Calvin Dotson said...

Caroline, the email address I have for you is not working...

Good morning, Caroline...

I appreciate your kind resonances with all--and the poetry in them. The Observatory is a profound image in my life, and to be born near the Greenwich Observatory and Meridian in London, well, that is singular in my mind! I enjoy hearing your stories of family--your grandmother and father and the singing at the piano evoke parallel--if disparate--images of my childhood, yes, in Southern Appalachia. The living things in our larger communities--the animals, trees, plants--nurture my soul, as I aspire to bring forth any gifts I might have to offer, lyrics for musicians to fulfill, a streak of light, a texture, a momentary trace.

Flying from San Francisco this afternoon to arrive in Swansea tomorrow.