The Last Time We Saw Strangers – Reviewed

Reviewed ByShirley Bell

The Last Time We Saw Strangers, by Christopher Hopkins
Clare Songbirds Publishing House  Chapbook Series
ISBN 978-1-947653-24-5

In the new year in Issue 20, I was pleased to review a chapbook from Christopher Hopkins, ‘Take Your Journeys Home’. He is a talented writer and I included work from the first chapbook in Issue 12 of the magazine.  Issue 22 of The Blue Nib included  ‘Drinking the Root Beer’. This and an updated version of ‘Whale poem’, now ‘The Stranding’,  both appear in the new collection.

The Blue Nib is proud of showcasing Christopher’s work, and also of featuring reviews of his chapbooks to help to bring this fresh, new voice to the public. We feel very strongly that it is important for The Blue Nib to nurture original talent and help to bring to the public eye.

I wrote of ‘Take Your Journeys Home’ that he had:  written a eulogy to the industrial ruin of Wales and a celebration of the close-knit communities that grew up around the coalfields,  and that the: chapbook is engaging and readable, with its fresh voice and thought-provoking content.

I was pleased to see that Christopher Hopkins’ ‘The Last Time We Saw Strangers’ chapbook shows how his poetry has continued to develop since ‘Take Your Journeys Home’ was published.

As in his previous work, he shows a strong sense of place, and there is a solid sense of belonging to the world of his childhood in Wales, with its land, sea and chapel, that leave: heart-shaped marks…saved away,  in ‘Sick, Thick or Lazy’. However, these poems are wider-ranging, covering North America as well as the UK, and he experiments with form in intriguing poems like ‘Islands’ and ‘Public Open Spaces’.

He is a sensitive poet with a real talent for lyrical yet powerful description. In ‘I was a boy of blue midnights’, the poem has a suggestion of Dylan Thomas’s compelling imagery and use of rhythm in beautiful lines, including those that give the collection its title: I was a boy of blue midnights and a man/in the threads of gold mornings.

Chris has a naturalist’s eye for the world of cormorants and foxes, stranded whales and the starlings: Oiled /and starved in ‘The Anxiety of Starlings’.  He also turns his observational skills to moments like the life of a beggar, everyday boredom and the nostalgic power of old photographs.

I feel that Chris has created a strong and coherent collection here and I look forward to seeing further developments.