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EDITIONS
Thursday, 1 November, 2001, 14:36 GMT
Ugly lovely language of the streets
Eye'm tellin' ewe now, local dialeckts in powims are puckah - and Mike Jenkins aims to keep them that way.

The latest collection of poetry from one of Merthyr's most literary sons revels in the local lingo where others shy from reality.

Celebrity poets like laureate Andrew Motion may eloquently find solace and pain in sun and rain, but former teacher Jenkins' preoccupation is with troubled Valley streets and souls.


It's full of energy, it's full of vibrancy, it's always changing and I think it's very descriptive

Mike Jenkins, poet
With Coulda Bin Summin' - his latest collection - Jenkins rhymes on times of redundancy, "skank" and stink on some of Europe's most socially deprived council estates.

But a dignity is bestowed by the book which belies the surface perceptions of modern-day Merthyr as he apes Dylan Thomas' "ugly lovely" respect for home.

For, poems such as Shop Boys are as much a homage to an apparent "imaginative" local charm as an essay economic decline.

Them boyz, them shop boyz,
They'll skank your breath,
Yew got any glass eyes,
They'll 'ave 'em f' ball bearings,
They'll 'ave yewr gran's dentures
An make 'em inta lockpicks,
They'll 'ave yewr wigs
T' keep theyr rottweilers
Nice 'an cosy at night,
And yewr auntie's Woman Own
To roll out giant spliffs with

"It's full of energy, it's full of vibrancy, it's always changing and I think it's very descriptive and imaginative," says the author.

"Having taught in Merthyr for 20 years, the pupils are coming out with interesting phrases and words that I really want to use in poems."

Not to gloss over the very real and, yes, "gritty" content central to Coulda Bin Summin'.

Having already scored with dreary titles including Wanting To Belong; Graffiti Narratives; A Dissident Voice and This House, My Ghetto, Jenkins' latest collection is similarly full of the crime, punishment, juvenile delinquency which might typify disadvantaged communities.

Troubled estate

After all, this is the region which is home to the Gurnos estate - one of the most troubled in Wales.

Little changes. The government had, in the 1930s, planned to shut the town entirely due to excessive unemployment, according to local MP Ted Rowlands.

The author adds: "Although parts of Wales have improved in recent years, Merthyr is still a very depressed area.

Terraced street
Merthry's 'jadgespeak' features prominently
"There are a lot of people who are still suffering tremendously from poverty and losing their jobs.

"The poem about the man who has worked in a factory for 20 years and lost his job is very much based on people I know, and experiences locally.

Jenkins' language comes from the street, literally, - a vocabulary evolving at least as quick as the estuary English transformation around London and throwing around new words like "jadge."

"In the Gurnos, it became a phrase for people who were streetwise and there was a whole jadgespeek.

"That's an example of new words emerging, especially in the youth.

"Words like skank and tax for nicking things."

Jenkins, then, has skanked his stuff from the jadge round the corner. Tidy.

Coulda Bin Summin' was released on 30 October on Planet

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Till-a Truth
Reading of poem
BBC Wales's Jon Gower
"The local dialect has an enduring appeal"
See also:

04 Oct 01 | Entertainment
27 Jul 00 | Wales
26 Sep 00 | Wales
08 Nov 99 | Wales
01 Jan 00 | Wales
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