Poems by Jim Howell
Smoke Signals, Jim Howell’s second Peterloo collection, is written with the same moving and resonant spareness that distinguished Survivals (1976) and drew praise from Gavin Ewart (British Book News), Colin Flack (The New Review), and Anne Stevenson (The Listener). The title poem of this new collection was broadcast on Poetry Now (BBC Radio 3); other poems first appeared as Mandeville Dragoncards and in Mandeville booklets.
Jim Howell was born in Manchester and lived there for all of his working life. He was Head of English at a Lancashire Secondary School before his retirement to St. Anne’s-on-sea.
From reviews of Survivals:
’Howell’s undeludedness is pleasing in the way that Larkin’s or [say] Bernard Spencer’s is.’
Colin Falck, The New Review
’Thoroughly recommended to all who appreciate fine craftsmanship.’
Use of English
’Jim Howell offers his readers extremely sensitive perceptions of his life and surroundings in Survivals . . . he is concerned to perceive and discover himself through his poetry, but he does not force his egotism upon us. The last poem in this collection, entitled “Always”, does his attitude justice:
. . . there is work
to do, people to answer,
and it is not a poet
but myself I must become.’
Anne Stevenson, The Listener
Holiday Road (A17)
The names bring visions to my mind
of men, long-sighted, gazing out
across the flats, or bending down
in fields of bulbs. I’m sure I’d find
that they do nothing of the kind.
It is a kind of idle play
for travelling minds. I let the towns
write their own script as each one looms
sign-posted there along the way
that takes us on our holiday
to Norfolk – where in any case
the scene turns turtle from a rich
pastel of trees to one in which
water and bird have made a place
as bare and changing as a face.
To me the passing names are like
those coloured wrapping sheets that hide
the half-known gifts which lie inside,
borrowing for the present’s sake
some of the magic that they make.
Anticipation’s labels made
of brick and breath and earth and stone;
Sleaford, Swineshead, Sutterton.
A leaven for tomorrow’s bread;
Holbeach, Fosdyke, Saracen’s Head.
Price £4.95 per copy post free (£3.30 post free to Associate Members)
Cover illustration: ‘York Street Leading to Charles Street, Manchester’ by Adolphe Valette. Courtesy of the Manchester City Art Galleries.
Publication: SPRING 1988 (48 pages laminated paperback)