The Brittle Sea
"The new, previously unpublished poems...represent the best work of a lyric poet who deserves a wider readership." – TLS
"This is a beautiful, moving book concerned with a preservation and celebration of the past: poignant, yet unsentimental. It is a must for fans of Henry's work and a thoughtful selection for readers coming to his poems for the first time." – New Welsh Review
"I am at a loss to understand why this poet, who not only concerns himself with themes that would resonate with most readers but has the verbal and musical skill to make them resonate, is not more widely known and admired." – Sheenagh Pugh
This substantial selection from the work of Paul Henry confirms that he has over two decades, been quietly building an oeuvre of beautifully crafted poems. And, by popular request, in the "new poems" section, rugby fans will find 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 rugby world cup. Born in Aberystwyth on the west coast of Wales, into a family of musicians, music pervades his poems on childhood, as do a large cast of aunts, neighbours, friends and relations, many of whom appear in Dylan Thomas-like character sketches. Henry doesn't pin his characters down but allows them to flourish as archetypes, evokes their history and context with a rare empathy and a lyrical lightness of touch. Some of his earliest portrait-poems are set against the Breconshire villages where Henry lived from his mid teens, a move south to Newport, Gwent, inspires poems about the undulating river Usk and the post-industrial cityscape and its impact on people's lives. The individual human voice, the ragged vagaries of the heart and soul, the joys and sorrows of family life feature here but this poetry is personal without being confessional, preferring tender observation to sensationalism or didacticism. For a poet well-known for one-page lyrics it is instructive to be reminded or several of his longer sequences, such as those in 'The Shell House' which vary in tone per section, much like a concerto or musical piece.