Poems of Hope – Ian Henery
Over the past decade Ian Henery’s contribution to the literary scene in the West Midlands has been immense. Both as the movement’s advocate – and as an organiser of events in parts of the region (Walsall and the Black Country in particular) – he has seemed ubiquitous. He has also been consistent in his support for positive social change, his heart with the industrial working class from which he descends, their struggle taken up in the present day.
I, Poems of Hope the writer takes a stand. Against a dismal background of reduced rights and falling living-standards Henery looks for the enduring traditions of protest in the present day. Hence his engagement with an unpromising here-and-now, a defiance insisting the collective spirit of the past will enable survival in the present. His bold retort to heartless modern capitalism suffuses the sixty- odd pieces in this collection.
I am taken by the range of the verse. Those that feature Cotwall End are not ‘nature poems’, instead a harder look at the diversity of species where the writer wishes to inform us of the landscape, its geological base and the way its mineral richness continues to shape the present. Diversity is thematic elsewhere, as in Divine Dancers who:
…sway before our eyes
We need these dancers, they banish the grey,
In their presence despair is blown away.
The joy Henery feels in a diverse culture is there in the tribute paid many times to the duality of his family-members’ heritage and the enrichment that follows from such merging of tradition. He points to his own source of early knowledge of the wider world as a child – Walsall Library where
…tales of enchanted castles, shining knights
On free loan, filled dreams until morning’s light.
It was there, thanks to the Walsall authority’s provision, that the author
…read Rossetti, Byron, Keats and Blake.
As poems of hope the content is necessarily of the future, the fantasy monster Cthulu suggesting the evil that sustains the violence of our present world when at last confronted and emerging from
…the dark into the sickly light
…and on the surface die.
This, with several pieces that are dedicated to or feature children, give us hope for the future. Henery owes a great deal to tradition and his debt to earlier masters – mentioned above – is evident in the style of his verse. His task now is to find a contemporary idiom – and new poetic forms – that reflect our precarious present, and equally the great movements, geological as well as historical and and social, that have brought us to where we, who live in the West Midlands, are now situated.