Monday 17 April 2023

Alan Jenkins, "The Ghost Net"

New Walk Editions, which is co-edited by Nick Everett in the Centre for New Writing at the University of Leicester, is publishing its first full-length poetry collection, The Ghost Net, by Alan Jenkins. 

Alan Jenkins was born in 1955, and has lived in London for most of his life. He has worked as an editor, reviewer and teacher in England, Europe and the United States, and published several volumes of poetry, among them the Forward Prize-winning Harm (1994), A Shorter Life (2005), Revenants (2013) and Marine (a collaboration with John Kinsella, 2015). New Walk Editions published his chapbook Tidemarks in 2018.

About The Ghost Net

A ghost net is a fishing net, or part of one, that remains in the sea after it has been discarded or lost. Alan Jenkins’s eighth full collection of original poems (and his first for a decade) has netted a haul of painful or poignant moments and memories: places and people recalled vividly, sometimes obsessively, in sorrow and in anger. Central to these are an unnamed woman – or women – and the journalist Marie Colvin, who was killed in Syria in 2012. But the paths and ‘sea-roads’ here beckon us insistently back into a past that is not merely personal: The Ghost Net is haunted by a sense of loss in which, as a reviewer of Jenkins’s New Walk chapbook Tidemarks pointed out, a nation and the way it sees itself are implicated. And the elegiac music so distinctive to this poet is accompanied by the wit, telling detail and powerful directness that make reading him a rare pleasure.

You can see more details about The Ghost Net on the publisher's website here. Below, you can read two sample poems from the collection. 

From The Ghost Net, by Alan Jenkins

A Song of Maine

It seemed absurd,
To be flying up to Maine,
An ‘honoured guest’, the week I’d heard
That my life would never be the same again,
That the time had come to pay for every word
I’d let go in unkindness, or in haste,
Every chance I’d let go to waste,
Each drag, each drunken fuck,
Each drop of booze,
Each bit of undeserved good luck
I’d somehow refused to use;
That I who’d been
The doctor, was now the disease ...
Could I have known, could I have seen
How I’d mislay that knack I had, to please
By a sort of laying on of hands?
Or, now that I had lost my touch
So that a single touch of mine appalled,
And everything came down to cells and glands,
How much, how much
I’d need you, or that when you called
To say I wasn’t real, what that would mean?

I sat and stared
At the grey Atlantic, at
The grey mist that rolled unimpaired
Over pines and firs, grey rock and where I sat –
A granite perch on Schooner Head, a deck I shared
With foxes, squirrels and a grey raccoon
– Its mask of sadness; at the moon,
Most nights, as it sailed through
A storm-rinsed sky
To mock me and my need for you,
Absurd as that seemed, to its eye.

Player’s Navy

I work to make my flat proof against the winters,
My flat roof, my skylights and window-frames,
Unhelped by him, who gave our claims the slip ...
When I kneel to strip the rough planks of my flooring,
Sanding when the soiled, soaked rag snags on splinters,
My head swims with the shining decks of twelve, thirteen;
With white spirit and the whiff of coiled rope. I see him
Straighten up to light another Player’s Navy Cut,
Snap the lighter shut and smooth his moustache-ends
With the back of his hand. I tell myself we were friends
As I reel home after drinking all night in The Ship,
Make my window-latches fast, batten down the hatches
Of my skylights then keel over in the wrack
Of oily rags, the reek of the years that I want back
And listen to the room creak and strain at its mooring.

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