Sarah Coles reviews Shedding Paper Skin by Mike Jenkins & Boy Running by Paul Henry

Shedding Paper Skin

Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, £7.50

One of the difficulties of political poetry is making the desired point without resorting to bludgeoning. Similarly, poetry ‘of the streets’ when tackled by those over a certain age, can be as cringe inducing as dad-dancing or a teacher saying ‘wicked’.

Mike Jenkins, in his packed collection, Shedding Paper Skin avoids both traps and it is hard to say exactly how he does this. Yes, there is the odd line where the rhythm jars, and the occasional rhyme scheme is set up, then abandoned in favour of bringing the message home – but each time the ‘message’ is delivered, its compassion is truly felt. Whether for his fellow Cardiff fans (‘With My Little Pick and Shovel’); the Tolpuddle Martyrs (‘The Tree Council’) or a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay (‘I am a number’), genuine care and concern for humanity shine through the heavy lines.

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