Tuesday 1 December 2020

Peter Thabit Jones, "Garden of Clouds: New and Selected Poems"

The author of fourteen books, several of which have been reprinted and four published in Romania, Peter Thabit Jones's work has been translated into over twenty languages. He is the recipient of the Eric Gregory Award for Poetry (The Society of Authors, London), The Society of Authors Award, The Royal Literary Fund Award, and an Arts Council of Wales Award. He was awarded the Ted Slade Award for Service to Poetry in 2016 by The Poetry Kit (UK), the Shabdaguchha Poetry Award 2017 (USA), and the 2017 Homer: European Medal for Art and Poetry.  

In March 2008 Peter’s American publisher, Stanley H. Barkan, organised a six-week poetry reading tour of America for Peter and Dylan Thomas’s daughter, Aeronwy. 

Peter's chamber opera libretto, Ermesinde’s Long Walk, for Luxembourg composer Albena Petrovic, premiered at the Philarmonie Luxembourg in 2017 and at the National Opera House Stara Zagora in 2018. His full opera libretto for her, with Svetla Georgieva, Love and Jealousy, premiered at the National Opera House Stara Zagora in Bulgaria in 2018, at the Théâtre National Du Luxembourg in 2019 and at the International Festival “Sofia Music Week,” Bulgaria, in September 2020. 

Peter has resided at Big Sur, California, as writer-in-residence for two months each summer from 2010 to 2019.  His drama The Fire in the Wood, about Big Sur sculptor Edmund Kara, premiered at the Actors Studio of Newburyport in Massachusetts in 2017 and at the Henry Miller Library and the Carl Cherry Center in California in 2018. 

You can find further information about his work here.     

About Garden of Clouds: New and Selected Poems
Published by Cross-Cultural Communications, New York, Garden of Clouds: New and Selected Poems comprises some poems published in previous books by Peter Thabit Jones and a larger group of new poems. There are poems about a boy raised by his maternal grandparents in a working-class home below Kilvey Hill in Eastside Swansea, Wales; poems about dementia, autism, widowhood, and favourite poets (such as Rilke, Edward Thomas, R. S. Thomas, and Dylan Thomas); poems about a Welsh town busker, an Elvis Lookalikes competition, participating in an outside poetry reading in Belgrade, Serbia, and trips to the Mojave Desert and the Grand Canyon; poems about human conflict, such as the poems ‘War Child’ and ‘Soliloquy of a Leader,’ and personal loss and grief for the poet’s second son, Mathew. There is also a selection of poems about Big Sur, California, where the poet has resided annually for two months as a writer-in-residence since 2010. 

The Big Sur poems are new poems, not included in his previous book, Poems From A Cabin on Big Sur (also from Cross-Cultural Communications). The poems engage with the rugged and wild beauty of the landscape that spreads all around the isolated writer’s cabin. The cabin is a fifteen-minute walk from the Pacific Ocean, which can be viewed in all its glory from the main cabin window. The lament of the ocean is the ever-present aural backdrop to the chosen solitude.

Below, you can read three poems from Garden of Clouds: New and Selected Poems.


Stones take to each other naturally,
Like a family of sleeping creatures,

The large ones accommodate little ones,
To create a colony of hardness;

They rest in centuries of stark stillness;
They are elephant-heavy to lush grass.

Their colours employ the afternoon sun;
They are as warm as loaves from an oven.

Each one embodies its personal death;
They are cobbled memories of the sea;

They are the solid language of labour:
Each one weathered to a perfect image.

They rest, innocent of their history,
Like a grey display of featureless skulls.

They have tasted our sweat and absorbed our blood.
They rise and fall, symbols of man’s conscience.

Their persistence has sculptured their silence;
They hint that their souls haunt other planets.

They are magnets for our primitive thoughts;
They are the armour of truths beyond us.

They shape our built fears of an afterlife,
They could tempt us into acts of worship.

War Child

He is already a hundred years old.                               
Barely nine, his eyes slowly drown                                 

In his sudden tears as his brown fingers                       
Tremble below the wound of his lips.                              

His thoughts walk through the dust memories             
Of destruction, the bomb-collapsed                                  

Building where his parents, three brothers                    
And his two sisters were killed.                                           
He is alone in the world.  Alone with his fears.               
His small bag of experiences is already full.

The Western reporter and cameraman                              
Will go back to their hotel and stitch together                  

Yet another war story, while the boy will wander            
His devastated city, where horror                                         

Is piled on horror, where planes scratch                                
The night sky and break up the morning.                              

He shakes his dark head, he is lost for words,                       
As his eyes stare through the flesh                                            

Of so-called civilization                                                                 
To the foul and bloodied bones of reality.         

Edward Thomas in Swansea

You brought your troubles
With you: the almost-empty
Pockets of your poverty;
The tarnished wedding-ring

Of your worn love for Helen;
The mind’s shelves of commissioned
Books far too many.
It’s said you looked down

At Lower Swansea Valley,
The hell-smouldering
Far sprawl of tall
Choking factories.

Was your mind a mess,
A trench of dark thoughts
That stretched away
From reality.

The jigsaw of Europe
Was breaking apart,
Young men queuing
To wear the King’s khaki.

You returned to England,
To your nest of worries‒
The sparks of the war
Burning possibilities‒

Then Robert Frost coaxed
Your mind towards poetry. 

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