Take Your Journeys Home , by Christopher Hopkins.
Clare Songbirds Publishing House Chapbook Series
140 Cottage Street, Auburn, New York, 13021
USA, November 2017
Christopher Hopkins grew up on a council estate in Neath, South Wales during the 1970s. This fractured landscape of machines and mountains and the underlying ‘Hiraeth’¹ in welsh life has developed his unique voice. He currently resides in Canterbury and works for NHS cancer services. Christopher has had poems published in Backlash Press, The Journal (formally the Contemporary Anglo – Scandinavian poetry), Rust & Moth, The Journal, Harbinger Asylum, Scarlet Leaf Review, Anti-Heroin Chic, VerseWrights, Tuck Magazine, Dissident Voice magazine, Poetry Superhighway, Duane’s PoeTree, Outlaw Poetry and the online literary journal 1947. Christopher’s spoken word poetry has also featured in a podcast of Golden Walkmen Magazine. Two of his early e-book pamphlets “Imagination Is My Gun” and “Exit From A Moving Car” are available on Amazon.
Christopher Hopkins has written an eulogy to the industrial ruin of Wales and a celebration of the close-knit communities that grew up around the coalfields. These poems are shot through with ‘Hiraeth’¹. "When the Dragon Sang and People Listened" talks of the
...timeless days/when people grew old/but the work never did
where the mines were the literal backbone of the community and in "Ghosts of Machines" he talks of
An ex-town, a paragraph on a glossed note..../a washed novelty/for the trickle of heritage coins.
He rues the loss of the local pub, in "A Sorrow on the Hill", which has been nominated by his publishers for the Pushcart Prize, and rues too how
A crackle in the laugh/becomes a man's sentence
acknowledging the toll that mining took on the health of its workers.
Nor does he romaticise the inhabitants of this world. The domestic abuser in "The Darkness at the Bottom of the Glass"
Sometimes it wears a tie/ and buys the milk./Picks up the kids on time,/and loves in his own way
doesn't just switch on with alcohol. The poet also sees the dark world of prostitution in "A Lamb Walks Under Parking Signs on the Main Street After Dark" where one of its victims has
bruised lines of finger grips, her Sergeant stripes,/with bad luck on her shoulder.
In "When the Dragon Sang and People Listened" we see his subtle use of consonant rhyme, evident throughout the book, in
jewelled scales would shimmer/ in the dusk and night of a summer.
This subtle chiming of sounds is a sensitive and unobtrusive thread in many of the poems and it weaves the book together; it can be seen very clearly in "News Report of Trawlerman Lost" with its internal rhymes and chiming sounds echoed at the end of lines.
The wild sea can be as powerful as the landscape with its demands, but is also the backdrop to the everyday sights and sounds of the tourists, visiting seaside arcades and who are
the new boarders ,/ of this doleful pleasure land
in "30th March at the Sea", which links back to the "Ghosts of Machines"
Christopher Hopkins also has a sensitive eye for the natural world, evident for example in "Blood Orange Cry":
The sun-fall breaks your heart./Its bruising line/from the fire/folding under its own weight.
and also in the layering of weddings and funerals demonstrated by
how the handfast blossom/shivers/from lichgate to porch
"Death of a Summer Flower".
My only slight criticism is the reappearance in poems of "lace doilie houses", "doilie houses", "doilied rows" which tends to reduce a surprising and powerful image.
This chapbook is engaging and readable, with its fresh voice and thought-provoking content, and I am also very pleased that 3 of the poems it contains appeared amongst others in Issue 12 of The Blue Nib.
¹ Hiraeth (pronounced [hiraɪ̯θ]) is a Welsh word for which there is no direct English translation. The online Welsh–English dictionary of the University of Wales, Lampeter likens it to homesickness tinged with grief or sadness over the lost or departed." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hiraeth