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Revisiting Jonathan Edwards’ poetry

Jonathan Edwards’ first collection of poetry – “My Family and Other Superheroes” – published by Seren – has won the Costa Prize for Poetry. And I am so excited – for the poems, the poet, and for all the people who will now read these poems, who may not even have come across the book otherwise. And this morning I am treating myself: I am reading it again, for the umpteenth time.

I don’t know how he does it.

These are stories – so readable I have already read and re-read a third of the book in an hour. I have my absolute favourites – but I haven’t come across a ‘duff’ one yet. How can this be?
There is story telling. Really great story telling – where a whole life is covered; where we time travel back and forwards along a person’s timeline, effortlessly – just as we do in our own memories; as in Building my Grandfather:

We have more of a problem with the right knee,
but my father remembers it was always gammy
from twelve-hour shifts, labouring in tight seams.
I fit the lungs, pumping in mustard gas
which filled each breath he took in 1918.
Something seems to be missing from the heart
and for a while we search beneath the sideboard,
but then my father says …….

There is a young boy’s perspective. The tragedy for most of us is we pretend we have grown up. Here we can revel in a child’s view, beautifully rendered, with an undertow of meanness and desire for power; as in Views of Valleys Village from a Hill:

… it’s all wind blow-drying the grass
for its big night out, radio-friendly birdsong,
sheep doing their thought ballooon impressions.
From here, I could destroy everyone I know
by blinking . From here, I could step off

the world. My father comes out of the shop,
cracking a rolled-up Argus against his hip,

Sinead Morrissey says about the poem Evel Knievel Jumps Over my Family: “This is a rare thing: a successfully funny poem, which is imaginative, tender, and unexpected”
David Morley says about the book : ” I have rarely read a poetry collection that captures and transforms the magic of our ordinariness so superbly and honestly.”
I say “Hear Hear!”
I say “Buy this book – direct from or from an independent bookshop such as – which is, incidentally owned and run by Anna Dreda – one of the three Costa Poetry Judges”
I say “Thank you Jonathan Edwards. I have no idea how you’ve done it but each poem stands alone uniquely, but also grows when rubbing shoulders with the others”
– kind of like each of us, within our own families. His family, and his experiences are nothing like my own, but are – they touch me deeply while simultaneously making me guffaw. They are real, deeply real – at the same time as being fantastic. They bathe me in a quality of writing that endures long after I have reluctantly put the book down once more.

If you read one poetry book – make it this one.
If you read a lot of poetry I imagine you already have a copy, and are blogging about it right now.



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