Thursday, May 17, 2012

Cheshire Born by John Wright

John Wright's Cheshire Born is a departure for me. Called "A Collection of Albums," it's the story of  Wright's life, broken into sections. And, it's written in various forms of poetry.

Yes, Wright was born in Cheshire, England. The first section of the book is set in Cheshire, and begins with his birth. It's a section in which Wright remembers the ordinary parts of daily life there. In 1960, there was only one family on their road with a phone, and they would take important messages, including the message when someone died. There are poems bout working men, men going off to work, the window cleaner, a poem called "Ragbone" about the man who traded for rags.

But, it's the second album of the book that rings with poems of love. Wright made visits to his relatives in County Mayo, Ireland when he was a child. It's the portraits of those people that shine in this book. He captures their portraits and their voices. One of my favorite poems brings back memories of my own beloved grandfather.


"On his boots
           the mud of Cloonbulliban
On his back
           a collarless shirt
Round his belly
           a big brass-buckle belt
In his briar
           sweet smouldering peat
In his laugh
           the music of Mayo
In his tears
           the salt of earth
On his lap
          the proudly held grandson
On my cheek
          Love's whiskery burn"

My grandfather wasn't Irish, but oh, the times I sat in his lap as a child!

It's obvious that John Wright remembers those visits to Ireland with love. He writes about family, great uncles and other relatives. And, he writes poems about tinkers, and warnings he never understood as a child.

At sixteen, Wright went to Holland for two weeks on his own, and there is one album about that visit. His poem, "Tram" ends with the homesickness experienced by so many young people on their own for the first time.

"When I saw the magnificent three-prong
pier reaching out longingly for East Anglia
I gazed across a lonely sea and wondered
why I'd come so far away from who I am."

At nineteen, though, Wright left home for good, moving to Australia where he worked as a psychiatric nurse.One section deals with his life there, followed by a return visit to Ireland, and then a final section dealing with his married life as a husband and father in New South Wales.

Wright uses a number of forms of poetry, including haiku in the book. It's a thoughtful view of his life, the people and countries that shaped him. My favorite sections, as I said, are the Ireland albums. The love is so evident in those poems. Some of the poems are sad, reflecting those moments in life - death, loss, old age. But, in Cheshire Born, John Wright explores life through a series of vignettes. And, it's a pleasure to spend one evening in his company.

Cheshire Born: A Collection of Albums by John Wright. Balboa Press. 2011. ISBN 9781452501888 (paperback), 122p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.


Beth Hoffman said...

This book is definitely going on my list! It sounds like a wonderful read.

Terrific review, Lesa!

Lesa said...

Thank you, Beth. It's not easy to review poetry, especially since I seldom read it.

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