Jenni Wyn Hyatt and I met on one of Wendy Pratt’s online poetry classes and that’s where I first started to read and enjoy the variety of Jenni’s skillful, wise and well-observed poetry.

Her second poetry collection Striped Scarves and Coal Dust was recently published, and I ordered a copy right away.

From the intro: “Her subjects include Wales, nature, the tragedy of war, childhood memories and the human condition, with a smattering of humorous verse.”

In other words, her poems are about life. Of special note are Jenni’s use of forms, rhyme and metre in many of her poems — and seeing how she uses these tools is inspiring me to experiment more with them in my own writing.

I asked Jenni if I post could here, as a taster, some poems from her collection (and one of the illustrations by her daughter, Cathy Knight) . It’s hard to select just five …. and even though none are included here, I would like to mention that her book ends with a special section at the ends, of poems written both in Welsh and English. Jenni is bilingual.

What first caught my eye during our group sharing at Wendy Pratt’s online class last October was that like myself, Jenni enjoys writing Crapsey cinquains ( a five-line 2-4-6-8-2 syllabic form invented years ago by Adelaide Crapsey – interesting story at the link).

.
Jay


Bright crow,
Arrayed in pink,
Screecher, baby-snatcher,
with wing’s blue flash and black moustache,
dapper.

Illustration for “Jay” by Jenni’s daughter, Cathy Knight

Here is another short-ish and impressive (word-wise & image-wise & mood-wise) poem that Jenni wrote using a prompt from Wendy’s course.


Autumn Shadows
 
 
Leaves shroud the path.
At dusk, lurking shadows
fox me like ghosts,
 
shadows of the past
foxing my memories,
fragile as leaves.
 
Fox crosses my path,
A living shadow,
leaf-russet.
 

In her intro to the section on haiku, Jeni notes that counting syllables is not what makes a haiku. She feels that the form is “the attempt to make the ordinary, extraordinary” and often puts hers through many revisions — because every word counts! Here’s one of Jenni’s haiku – it both startled me and delighted me in a most satisfactory way!


Tree Stump Cat
 
I turned the corner.
The tree stump shaped like a cat
spooked me, staring back.

 

One of my favourite poems in her book is a longer, reflective — and fiery poem that ends the section called “The Muse”. It’s a villanelle, Jenni uses this challenging form effectively.


Feast or Famine
 
 
This writing poetry’s a crazy scene –
my brain is numb or else it’s all aflame.
It’s feast or famine. There’s no in-between.
 
It’s sun-parched yellow or it’s verdant green.
It’s past all reason; no-one is to blame.
This writing poetry’s a crazy scene.
 
One day I feel as fecund as a queen,
the next I hang my head to hide my shame.
It’s feast or famine. There’s no in-between.
 
Is poetry imprinted in our genes,
success and failure’s highs and lows the same?
This writing poetry’s a crazy scene.
 
Sometimes I think I’m just an old has-been
when words emerge pedestrian and lame.
It’s feast or famine. There’s no in-between.
 
I wish I were a masterly machine
and churned out lines with ease to high acclaim.
This writing poetry’s a crazy scene;
 it’s feast or famine – there’s no in-between.

 

And to wrap up this post, here is a ballad – full of adventure and it shows us more of Jenni’s great sense of humour.

The Fall

Now, if you’re sitting comf’tably,
then listen to my ballad;
it is a Summer evening tale
of pizza and of salad.

“I’ll take the plates out, love,” I said,
for your hands tend to shake,
but I am steadier and I’d hate
the crockery to break.

The threshold proved my downfall – I’m
not sure what happened there,
but suddenly I found myself
in transit through the air.

A plate went flying from my grasp;
I heard a sickening sound
and turned to see the china spread
in pieces on the ground.

My pizza lay in disarray –
condemn me if you must –
I grieved more for my olives which
were rolling in the dust.

Meanwhile, and somewhat overcome,
I lay there in a huddle.
Was I in need of ambulance
Or just a hubby cuddle?

We checked and found me shaken, more
than usually dazed,
but only with a twisted foot,
a hand and elbow grazed.

We shared the unspoilt pizza and
the salad bowl was fine,
but all clouds have a lining so
we drank our fill of wine!

Order Sriped Scarves and Coal Dust here.

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