Peter Finch's applause for Jenkins as 'one of the wild men of poetry...a Mr Oblong
in a square hole' sells him short, while the soberer blurb sidelines his eclectic
materials as 'something he makes room for'. His outlook is humane, uncompromising,
inclusive, and at its best his technique feels like a charioteer reining in fiery
steeds. Narratives, like Odd Bird about a zany chaffinch, twist and turn without
snagging on digression; and if he is a rebel he has a cause: keep your pores open
or die complacent. He shares his outrage and only bullies when he trowels on the
venom or squalor.
There's range of subject and style. Childhood reminiscences are racy, though that
tricky presence, the retrospective adult, is sometimes too dab-handed. A coolly understated
love sequence exposes through images of immediate surroundings the gaps, including
a cultural divide, that suddenly yawn under a heady closeness. In contrast he delivers
welterweight punches at cure-alls and the sillier fanaticisms of mass leisure. He
rattles off portraits of familiar people, eccentrics and imagined personas with tenderness,
wit and apt shifts of tone. 'Waiting For the Train That Never Comes' dramatises in
one focus every phase from youth to senility, and we can recognise our own obsessions
in his aunt's
questioning doors to be let in
and clocks for never answering
and her grandson for letting strangers
use her home like some station.
The title poem 'This House my Ghetto' is the monologue of an established immigrant
who suffers alienation but understands why he's victimised. The poet distils here
his own uneasy relationship with a disintegrating world. Landscapes that should be
cleansing and uplifting, new homes that dehumanise, even skips of 'scraps and pickings'
are at once tangible and metaphorical. Settings in which he challenges the torpor
of TV with heartrending glimpses of innocence and defiance in war: Jasmina blown
to pieces because she loved the snow and Vedran Smailovic, a cellist who
... plays on streets where lame
buildings hobble before falling down.
Jenkins is unfailingly himself. The discerning who take him on his own terms won't