The Black Guitar

Clearing out ten years from a wardrobe
I opened its lid and saw Joe
written twice in its dust, in a child’s hand,
then a squiggled seagull or two.

                                                      Joe, Joe
a man’s tears are worth nothing,
but a child’s name in the dust, or in the sand
of a darkening beach, that’s a life’s work.

I touched two strings, to hear how much
two lives can slip out of tune

                                                  then I left it,
brought down the night on it, for fear, Joe
of hearing your unbroken voice, or the sea
if I played it.

by Paul Henry

‘The Black Guitar’ is copyright © Paul Henry, 2010. It is reprinted from The Brittle Sea, published by Seren Books in 2010.

Notes from Seren:

Paul Henry is one of Wales’s leading poets. Described by the late U.A. Fanthorpe as ‘a poet’s poet’ who combines ‘a sense of the music of words with an endlessly inventive imagination’, he came to poetry through songwriting. The Brittle Sea, New & Selected Poems has recently been published by Seren in the UK and by Dronequill in India, under the title The Black Guitar. A popular Creative Writing tutor, Henry has read his poems and performed his songs at festivals across the UK and Europe and also in the USA and Asia. He recently presented the ‘Inspired’ series of arts programmes for BBC Radio Wales and ‘Do Not Expect Applause’, his celebration of the Scottish poet W.S. Graham, for BBC Radio Three.

As well as portrait-poems set against the Breconshire villages where Henry lived from his mid teens, the book collects poems about the undulating river Usk and the post-industrial cityscape of Newport, Gwent. The Brittle Sea also includes the three poems Henry was commissioned to write for BBC2’s ‘Poetry in Motion’, which celebrated the Welsh national rugby team as they prepared for the 2007 World Cup.

You can read more about this new collection at Seren’s website, read more from Paul Henry’s work at his own website, and hear the poet read ‘Daylight Robbery’ and ‘The Black Guitar’ on Seren’s YouTube channel here.

Seren is based in Wales (‘Seren’ means ‘star’ in Welsh) and recently celebrated its 30th birthday. Begun as an offshoot of the magazine Poetry Wales by Cary Archard and Dannie Abse in the latter’s garage in Ogmore-by-Sea, the press has now grown and employs a number of staff. It is known for publishing prize-winning poetry, including collections by recent Forward winners, Hilary Menos and Kathryn Simmonds, as well as books by Owen Sheers, Pascale Petit, Deryn Rees-Jones, and many others. The fiction list features a new title by Patrick McGuinness, The Last Hundred Days, that was longlisted for the Booker Prize. The high-quality arts books include the recent collaboration between the poet John Fuller and the photographer David Hurn, Writing the Picture.

For more details about Seren, visit the publisher’s website, where there is a blog about Seren’s news and events. You can also find Seren on Facebook, on Twitter, and on YouTube, where there are videos of a number of poets reading from their work.

Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.