Thursday, 9 July 2020

Poems from the Backroom 116: Russell Jones

I'm really delighted to have Russell Jones in the Backroom today another poet with a skilful light touch and an interest across genres. He is the deputy editor and poetry editor of Shoreline of Infinity, a sci-fi magazine from Scotland and has edited two anthologies of Science Fiction poetry, 'Where Rockets Burn Through – Contemporary Science Fiction Poems from the UK', and ‘Multiverse: an international anthology of science fiction poetry’as well as 'Umbrellas of Edinburgh – Poems and Prose Inspired by Scotland’s Capital City'.

He joins Chris Kelso from earlier in the series as a poet interested in seeing their work in different imaginary contexts, as well as seeing it in a variety of different media. His latest book 'Cocoon' features several poems featured as comics and illustrated by some of Scotland's great young comic artists, including Sara Julia Campbell, Caroline Grebbell, Aimee Lockwood, Edward Ross & Mark Toner. I can recommend all of these but have experience of collaborating with one in particular, Sara Julia Campbell, who strikingly illustrated in comic book style a collection that hasn't quite seen the light of day yet. Seeing poems louping from the page and appearing in different forms like this reminds us there are still new startling platforms to enhance and illuminate the written word.  

If all this was not enough to recommend Russell Jones, the fact that he was appointed Pets Laureate in 2018 should. This involved writing ten pet themed poems over the course of a year, illustrating the life enhancing effect pets have on human beings. Over the course of recent events, the bond between pets and their owners will have become even more of a vital one in relieving mental health pressures and loneliness. Recent research by the PDSA reveals that 84 per cent of pet owners believe that having a pet has had a positive impact on their mental health, providing calm, focus and purpose for them when they feel vulnerable and lonely.

Two poems are transcribed below, one 'The 200-Year-Old Monk' uses a historical event- the discovery of the mummified body of a monk- to reflect in a very simple and beautiful poem- about time and the second 'The Tempest', the first of his Pet Laureate poems, about a cat, Ella, the 'Beautiful Fairy' in the poem.  Here he is reading 'The 200-Year-Old Monk':

A link to one of Russell's comic poems:

More details on Russell and his poems can be found here:

Buy 'Cocoon' here:

The 200-Year-Old Monk

Like the flower that spawned your stance,
you sit, palms to the sun that never saw you

coming back from the dead. I imagine
a waterfall tumbling above your head,

two centuries of turbulence passing by.
How quiet that tomb must have been,

a fossil, earthed until the present
had enough of your solitude and took it.

Like so much that we cannot untouch,
we’ve plucked at your petals,

brought them inside to press,
to watch, to wither and know.

A Tempest– for Ella (“Beautiful Fairy”)

Cast away, nursing futures,
mottled shells spilled
on bare shores.

Ella, hold them close,
listen to those tiny oceans
roar, sail fast with hope beyond

hope. Who knows what storms
you navigate or divine.
Be not afraid,

this isle is full
of distant mews, incantations
and leviathans. A blue cross

cuts the squall. You will wake
to your babes lapping, think
of new worlds.

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