Review: Inviting the Light by Patrick Jones
C J Wagstaff
Ink and flora
The furrowed envelope arrived in my letterbox early last week, smelling faintly of ink and flora. Inside I found Patrick Jones’ latest contribution to the rich landscape of Welsh poetry.
A single sprig of dried lavender had been pressed between the third and fourth poems, its pigment beginning to wane to the white of the page.
In the first of three hybrid works slated for release this year, the Tredegar local returns to the basics in a DIY probe into the human condition.
Accompanied by a nine-track album of soundscapes, the seventeen-pronged pamphlet sees Jones navigating complex subject matter with varying degrees of technical prowess.
Following on from 2019’s My Bright Shadow, which chronicles his mother’s battle and eventual death from Leukaemia, Inviting the Light recapitulates the poet’s ongoing dialogue with loss and grief.
Offerings such as You (For My Father) and Marcescence in Spring (To My Mother) provide the strongest images in the pamphlet. The depictions of a penknife and a black bag full of clothes are limpid and precise, evocative of a melancholy nostalgia that seems to permeate the more confessional work.
In both of these poems, Jones draws parallels between himself and his parents in a circular narrative, achingly illustrating how we inherit the minutiae of our forebears’ thoughts and behaviours.
The sombre string accompaniments also operate as the musical zenith of the album, with the polyphony of multiple melodies in Marcescence in Spring (To My Mother) echoing the experiential complexities of bereavement.
There is no dearth of tenderness in these seventeen pages. Inviting the Light drips with sentiment and introspection and is highly implicative of the emotional intelligence of the poet.
A brief perusal of the creator’s extensive CV will tell you that he cares very deeply, from his charity and youth work to his unceasing commitment to labour and liberation politics.
However, some of this sensitivity becomes regrettably lost in the filter between psyche and page, causing the material to feel, at times, a little shallow.
Read aloud, the lexis often chimes and pleases phonetically. In The Stillness We Seek, there is a sonically attractive use of consonance; Lovesung (A Meditation)’s floral listing bears a comely metre.
But the pamphlet disservices itself with regard to engendering meaning and articulating Patrick’s substantial depth of feeling.
Where the poet ventures into whimsy and wordplay, the gravity of the message can be obscured. Constructions like “A begun / Not an undone” and “To be / From the been” appear absurd in a way that is divorced from the pamphlet’s sober register. Where Jones seeks to subvert idiom, he clouds the hearts of poems which would otherwise compel.
The same can be said for the structural disruption of the pieces: efforts to agitate syntax distract from what could otherwise be interesting work.
Often the final line or stanza is excessively punctuated or thrown into the open field of the page. Sometimes, like in Breathe Against the Hurricane, Lovesung (A Meditation) or You (For My Father), it works. Others, it feels somewhat forced.
In Letter to a Guntower, the poet recounts his visit to the occupied West Bank in 2023. Here, the intention is patent. The language is redolent and symbolic. The use of line and stanza break lends itself nicely to the poem’s rhythm.
There is a convincing sense of movement with alliterative noun-phrases such as “marauding Goliath” and “the stretching sea”. Alongside Jones’ commentaries on loss, this is the preeminent article of the compilation.
Inviting the Light’s genre-bending Bandcamp accompaniment comes in at sixteen-or-so undulating minutes. At times the arrangement jabs into blistering guitar rock. At others it mimics ‘90s trap music with synthesised drums. The low end tends to bear too prominently in the mix, at intervals drowning the speaker’s measured delivery.
It has its moments of potency (the electronic swells and traditional stringed instruments sound handsome), but on balance the album lacks cohesion and jerks between sections in a way that obstructs its assays at mindful focus.
Despite all of this, one can’t help but feel a fondness towards Patrick Jones, his warmth, his sentimentality, his earnest conviction. We gain a layered understanding of Patrick’s journey to wellbeing through self-interrogation and self-care: through wild swimming, breathwork, confronting heartbreak and connecting with the natural world.
In this mixed-media assemblage, the practitioner highlights the self-sanctioned vulnerability which is necessary for one to reach their full personal and spiritual potential.
The product is raw, authentic to Jones’ lived experience, and vitally to his ethos, accessible. The language tends towards being plain and unfussy, facilitating the potential reach and human connection which forms the foundation of this poetic yield.
Space must be held for work such as this, which disseminates the artist’s tenor in simple terms: outsider art which challenges our definitions and preconceptions of the traditional literary canon.
Attention to detail
Self-funded and self-published, Inviting the Light represents an ecosystem of contemporary literature that is crucial for us to feed and maintain.
Creative freedom, intellectual property rights and low barriers to entry are some of the merits that bring artists to self-publish time and time again, often showing us the finest work from the most underserved and marginalised voices in society.
In a feature with “God is in the TV,” Patrick muses upon the “gatekeepers of culture” in Welsh poetry.
But if artists were to exclusively pursue legitimised platforms and publishers, we would surely find ourselves bereft of the direct engagement and attention to detail which allows poets like Jones to leave a belt of lavender in one’s letterbox.
Inviting the Light is available to buy here.
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