Poet's Corner VII: Grandsons
Updated: Mar 17
with Audrey Ardern-Jones
Another month. Another welcome couplet of poems from Audrey Ardern-Jones. This time on the theme of grandsons.
An image comes to mind of a friend who later in life had a son. At a local beauty spot, her father pushed his grandson's pushchair with a look The Hub will never forget. Of such unabashed joy and pride to live to see this young wonder. His legacy.
You can read the poems and listen to Audrey recite and discuss her choices below.
YouTube video: The voice of James Joyce reading Ecce Puer
Of the dark past A child is born. With joy and grief My heart is torn.
Calm in his cradle The living lies. May love and mercy Unclose his eyes!
Young life is breathed On the glass; The world that was not Comes to pass.
A child is sleeping: An old man gone. O, father forsaken, Forgive your son!
After Four Miscarriages & An Ectopic
Picture: Audrey's grandson JJ / Credit: Audrey Ardern-Jones
After Four Miscarriages & An Ectopic
We crossed our fingers, said novenas.
I found a four leaf clover, kept it safe.
After the scan, we knew you were a boy,
a shrimp curled sideways in a womb.
Each month seemed sacred, bulging
kicks bursting a swollen tummy. We
sung to you, told you to hang on in,
held on to your knees, fists and feet.
I first saw you after the Caesarean
wrapped tight in your Mum’s arms;
your piercing deep blue eyes gazing,
a flush of black hair, soft like new grass.
You turned a slate-grey afternoon sky
into a kaleidoscope of rainbow colours.
Nowadays, each time I see you, a whirl
fills my heart, lifts me up like a balloon.
by Audrey Ardern-Jones
Listen to Audrey
Picture: "Young life is breathed" James Joyce with his grandson Stephen in 1934
/ Credit: Bettmann Archive
Chamber Music (1907), a collection of romantic, song-like short poems, was James Joyce's first published book. "Rightly" declared a "young man's book" by Joyce, according to poet and critic Carol Rumens. A later collection Pomes Penyeach, was followed only occasionally by more Joyce poetry.
Says Rumens: "The death of his father and birth of his grandson (in 1932) prompted a return to poetry for Joyce – and perhaps his finest work in the medium". Rumens chose the poem, "the outstanding achievement" of Joyce's poetry, as a Bloomsday Poem of the Week in The Guardian in 2014. You can read an analysis of Ecce Puer here.
Stephen Joyce, the subject of the poem, became the guardian of his grandfather's legacy and was known as "a complex and controversial figure" according to this Irish Times article.
In Praise of JJ
Coincidentally Audrey's first, and only grandson, Jamie is known in the family as "JJ". As Audrey's title suggests when JJ arrived he was much prized in the family. Although Audrey humbly hesitates to compare herself to "a great Twentieth century writer" not only does she share the medium of poetry but also the joy of being a grandparent with Joyce.
In the audio clip Audrey references Joyce's works The Dubliners, The Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, Finnegan's Wake and of course Ulysses. As well as his lessor known role as a poet. This February marks Ulysses: Celebrating 100 years of a literary masterpiece.
Painting Joyce is an exhibition based on the 18 episodes of Joyce's novel. The works, painted by Aidan Hickey to mark the 100th Anniversary of Ulysses’ publication, will hang in the James Joyce Centre, North Great George’s Street, Dublin, from February to June, 2022.
YouTube video: Molly Bloom's Soliloquy, The Last 50 Lines
In the video above, actress Angeline Ball speaks the last 50 lines of character Molly Bloom's soliloquy in her IFTA Award winning role in Bloom. Molly's soliloquy has gained a powerful, poetic life of its own.
—Love, says Bloom - Into The Heart of the Family is a Joyce exhibition delving into the heart of the family's dynamics. —Love, says Bloom looks at the deep love between Irish writer James Joyce, his wife Nora Barnacle, and their children Giorgio and Lucia, using music as a steadfast element in their lives. At MoLi on Dublin's Stephen's Green 2 Feb to 3 July 2022.
As well as his novels, Audrey comments on Joyce's poetry and the tale of exile and guilt about family absence entwined around the grandson theme in Ecce Puer. You can listen to Audrey discuss and read poems about grandsons by clicking on the link below.
A Poet with an Artist's Painterly Sensibility
Audrey Ardern-Jones at the summer 2021 unveiling of the Emily Wilding Davison Memorial in Epsom's market square where Audrey read her poem 'Tattenham Corner' about Suffragette Emily Wilding Davison's last moments / Credit: Audrey Ardern-Jones
“Ardern-Jones is a poet with an artist’s painterly sensibility, a musician’s fine ear, a nurse’s affinity for strangers and their plight. Poems for the ear, poems of language – Polish and Bemba, Portuguese and English. An intelligent, finely crafted poetry of curiosity and caring, of listening and loving, of humour and hope.” Paul Stephenson, an award winning poet and blogger, podcaster and co-curator of Poetry in Aldeburgh and teacher at the Poetry School, who interviews poets on their first collections.
Audrey Ardern-Jones spent her childhood in Africa (Lusaka, Zambia) where her English father and Polish mother were posted. She’s enjoyed a wonderful nursing career, specialising in cancer genetics. Audrey has always loved the Arts and founded The Poetry & Music Ensemble in 1984.
Her poems are widely published and have won prizes or been commended in international competitions. Currently, she is Artist in Residence at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust and is an active supporter of poetry projects in her community of Epsom & Ewell.
Credit: Indigo Dreams Publishing Ltd.
The publisher's link takes you to Doing The Rounds, Audrey's collection of poems. "This collection touches on the poet's childhood memories of living in Africa - her feelings of being in awe of so much and yet uncertain about many of the happenings. Most of her travel poems in India relate to incidents that have made her question herself - some of the poems about her Polish mother and her suffering post WW2 echo throughout the collection."