This Small Patch, poems by Tom Kelly. A 6” x 9” paperback book with a full colour cover and 76 pages. Published 2020 by Red Squirrel Press, www.redsquirrelpress.com
ISBN 978-1-910437-91-9 £10.00.
Kelly is a Jarrow man, a Tyneside man, from the boots up. He uses a variety of forms in his poems and song lyrics, which form part of this collection, but love and the knowledge of his native region, its people, their patterns of speech, their origins and their experiences, colour every line. He draws on the history of the area from the Anglo-Saxon origin of the name “Jarrow”, to the proud roll-calls of shipyards and trades in their glory days, to the passion and tragedy of the Jarrow Crusade. Kelly uses archive material to convey the march of Jarrow unemployed shipyard workers, on foot, to London to petition Parliament for work; notably a speech by one of the march leaders is presented like a found poem. Kelly leaves its refrain “Something must be done, and we shall not stop until something is done,” to stand unanswered, as it was in historical fact. He comments obliquely, following this with short, vivid portraits of his Uncle Johnny, one of the marchers, and another of the leaders – both masterful in their compression of essentials into brief, pungent lines, loaded with pain and tenderness. The poems in dialect convey a powerful sense of voices, individuals, speaking from the heart direct to the reader. Kelly draws on his Irish family heritage and childhood memories to build a people’s history, an insider’s view, complex, sometimes shocking, proud, grieving, arriving at some sort of resolution as he walks with the bairns into an unknown future.
Review by: Eve Kimber
Review in Pulsar Magazine June 2021