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Rigours of Inspection, The (Corgi Series: 23)

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Manylion a Disgrifiad y Llyfr | Book Details & Description

  • ISBN: 9780863817236
  • Author: Emyr Humphreys
  • Publication April 2005
  • Format: Paperback, 148x103 mm, 104 pages

A pocket size selection of poems by a Prestatyn-born accomplished poet, with a short biography and a useful bibliography.

Gwales Review
This is a compact ‘Corgi’ series collection of some of Emyr Humphreys’s poems and short stories. Still writing today, Humphreys has the reputation as a great Welsh prose writer. His poems explore the Welsh identity, particularly as placed within the rest of Europe. His writing is a careful balance between poetic visual imagery and an academic approach – there are often references to ancestors and their conversation, and the words of the dissident. The poem ‘Ancestor Worship’ contains the lines:‘Our remote ancestors knew better – They were all poets. They all wove, Syllabic love into their wooden homes’. Again, in ‘A Democratic Vista’: ‘We are the sacred people, the secular mystery, the host, Whitman’s elastic deity, Marx’s material, Rousseau’s noble savage, Mayakovsky’s beloved’.

His ability to focus on the individual within the ‘country’ is apparent throughout – in ‘Gwr y Rhos’ he begins ‘There is no such thing as the image of a country, For this reason put up this flag for approval: It is made of skin and stained with sunlight and tobacco' and later: ‘This man is a king except, He makes his living emptying caravan bins, And uses English in the shop to avoid giving offence’.

The four short stories are concise and contained in their presentation, the style of writing in ‘The Rigours of Inspection’, about a visit to a school by an inspector, is in keeping with the atmosphere of the place: ‘The brown tiles gleamed in the gloom and the single voices of teachers dripped into the wide silence of the castellated late Victorian building’. The characters of the headmaster Jones and the inspector are cleverly woven in. The rising tension between the two men as the inspection proceeds is gradually apparent and provides an authentic and dryly humorous account.

The collection ends with another short story,‘An Ethnic Tremor’, where we are introduced to the characters of a granddaughter (Megan) who has a project to write about Slovenia and is driving across the Alps with her grandmother, who is reluctantly being faced with her past as a young woman who worked there in wartime. The two women are at odds with each other from the start. As the story unfolds we are moved to think about boundaries and borders, and a family connection to South Wales.

All of his stories are curious and much is packed in to a fairly short space. They have a depth of engagement that lingers well after reading. This is a balanced and structured collection, very interesting overall and a nice combination with the poems.

Clare Maynard