With an artist’s eye for the evocative vignette and the songwriter’s musicality of diction, Paul Henry has quietly established himself as one of Wales’s most accomplished poets. Unerringly pinpointing the telling, unconsidered details of familiar sights and feelings, his poetry yields a depth and richness under its unassuming surface. Homely images surprise as they effortlessly unfold into new and unexpected contexts, or confront the extraordinary or absurd – like the dead turtle on a Welsh beach or a priest blessing a newly-installed garden shed. A host of memorable characters come and go, from children exploring their environment through kaleidoscopic vision, to the elderly in their shrinking world, preserving in their rituals the relics of a lost way of life. Past and present are encapsulated in fleeting, significant moments to be revisited with new insights and deep affection. As we move from small town to rural community to city streets, the sea of Henry’s childhood is never fully absent as the mood shifts like the tide from the familiar to the mysterious and unsettling, and from comic to elegiac.
Deeply-rooted in his native Wales, in family and community, Paul Henry’s poems are never parochial but explore universal themes and experiences, from the finding and losing of love to the complex joys of fatherhood and friendship. The Brittle Sea combines 25 new poems with a selection drawn from his five previous collections, to create a lyrical, haunting narrative of the last twenty years.
'Gesturing equally backwards and forwards, The Brittle Sea marks Henry’s quiet rise as a major lyric poet while whetting the appetite for what is sure to be a very rich later career.'
'Henry’s poems are often expressionistic, even symbolist... with formal skill and time and spacebending panache to boot... A lyric poet who deserves a wider readership.'
The Times Literary Supplement
'Paul Henry is the poet I wish I could be. If I ever meet a genie and get three wishes, I’m asking for his musicality, his use of back-story and his ability to create the most haunting resonance.'
'His poems possess unpretentious clarity and directness. Henry is a very fine poet.'