Wigan Poets success
John and Sandy are briliant poets and stalwarts of Write out Loud's various nights . Read…
Susanna Roxman's Review of
WIGAN JOURNEY by John & Sandré Clays
as published on New Hope On-Line Review
"These two poets, apparently a husband-and-wife team, write regional poetry in the best sense. Their poems are perhaps not extraordinary, but certainly well written, informative, and lively. Sometimes the mood is wistful, though never sentimental, sometimes playful. John and Sandré Clays are very similar in their range of interests as well as their style, with its deftly used slant rhymes and true rhymes. If this hadn't been stated explicitly, it would have been almost impossible to tell which contributions are by John and which by Sandré.
The region is that of Wigan and Leigh in north-west England. I only know Wigan through Orwell's famous documentary novel THE ROAD TO WIGAN PIER, about unemployed workers in the area. There is clearly much more than that to the past and present of Wigan, however. I feel that I have learned a lot from this little book, and that it wouldn't be such a bad idea to visit the places it describes.
While John writes about 67 miners who perished in 1908 because of an accident, there is also, and more often, a longer perspective back in time. Sandré wonders if a river called Dunglas in the Arthurian legends could be identical with the Douglas:
Then honoured would be Wigan's name
If verified this fable
The locals could flog Arthur mugs
And miniature round tables
The relatively distant past held its horrors, such as the baiting of badgers and bears, and, as in a neat villanelle by John, armed robberies. On the other hand, not very long ago people in the neighbourhood
. . . had more control, with mines,
mills, more employment . . .
John honours a vicar called William Arthur Wickham for his work with the poor, his pioneer photography, and his building projects:
Altar stained glass window
lights way to lasting legacy
Especially Sandré celebrates the natural surroundings of Wigan:
Yesterday I stumbled upon beauty.
Without warning it reared up and bit me
She has many well observed details: botanical names abound, a swan lies comfortably on "a rusted upturned trolley", a heron flies uncomfortably close, "almost clipping/your shoulder", and horses come in different colours, like "soot on brown". And her BARKIN', about "a daylight dawg", is delightful; perhaps it owes something to T. S. Eliot's OLD POSSUM'S BOOK OF PRACTICAL CATS:
That son of a bitch!
. . .
When the moon's on the high
and light's in retreat
then the blackness speaks
and he curls in the peat.
Yep, he dreams of another
yappin' day on the run
and a romp with his lady
in the cosy old sun.
The cover of this pamphlet is rather dull, but I have few other objections to WIGAN JOURNEY."