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Village Art & Literature

Inspired by flavour of life

Posted on June 26 2013 at 11:56:58 0 comments

Jenna and Misty

Living in her almost impossibly idyllic corner of Alvechurch, it’s not surprising that Jenna Plewes finds plenty of peace and inspiration for writing poetry – but her latest work is inspired by somewhere a bit further away from home.

Salt, Jenna’s first full collection of poetry, was largely composed during or after her frequent trips to the Devon coast, with her favourite beach taking the starring role.

“One of the poems is actually called Salt, but I felt the title was apt for the whole collection,” explains Jenna.

“It’s nice and simple, and relates not only to the sea but also to the salt of tears, sweat and the flavour of life.”

The poems themselves are also deceptively simple; in one sense they are snapshots from the seaside, creating a vivid picture in the mind’s eye and inviting the reader to share the poet’s delight in the coastal landscape, but they are also subtly metaphorical and – like Jenna’s previous work – deeply reflective.

Salt contains 56 poems, covering the changing faces of the sea from balmy summer to treacherous storms and fog.

Anyone can appreciate an attractive view, but Jenna’s carefully-chosen words describe the intensity of the experience, teasing out the details others might miss and suggesting new ways to look at simple things like the sun and sky.

The sea, anthropomorphised by metaphor and simile, becomes a living character capable of serenity, joy and rage.

Jenna claims the main theme running through the book is “the world is a wonderful place”, though not all the poems are immediately uplifting.

Although most of her writing is based around the natural world, she says her career in counselling and psychotherapy has also played a part: “I have a particular interest in relationships and how they work – or don’t work – and I think the sea is a great metaphor for this.”

“My husband and I go down to Devon every month, and I love walking Misty [their friendly collie] through the valley down to the beach,” says Jenna, who has written poetry throughout her life but is able to devote more attention to it since retirement.

“As well as the beautiful scenery for inspiration, the peace and quiet is ideal for thinking about what I’ve seen and how I’m going to describe it.”

She always keeps a notebook with her to jot down thoughts and phrases as they come into her head, and says that some poems come quickly, almost fully formed, while others might take two or three months and go through several re-writes.

“I know what I want to say but I need to find just the right way to say it, so that readers can understand what I’m getting at – although of course they can interpret the poems in their own way, using their own imagination.”

Salt is published by Indigo Dreams, which produces poetry magazines and accepts submissions twice yearly. Jenna has had poems published in these during the past few years, and when she submitted the idea for a whole collection, the firm said it would be delighted to publish it.

Jenna describes the process of writing the book as “great fun”, and is already planning a sequel, subject to the success of Salt. The next collection is based on impressions of exotic places she has visited.

Meanwhile, one of her poems is keeping good company in another collection published by Indigo Dreams: Heart Shoots, sold in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support, also contains words by the likes of Benjamin Zephaniah, TS Eliot, Seamus Heaney, Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen.

Salt is due to be launched at an independent bookshop in Kingsbridge, the nearest town to the Devon beach, on July 6. It will then be on sale from the publisher (, from Jenna herself (call 0121 445 1624) and on Amazon, priced £7.99.

The publication will also be celebrated with a music and poetry evening on July 13 at St John’s Church in Bromsgrove. Jenna and others will read some of her poems, interspersed with suitable music from local performers who play for Birmingham Philharmonic and the CBSO Youth Orchestra.

“We’ve done a similar event before and it worked well – poetry can be an acquired taste, so this offers something for everyone!”

When she’s not writing poetry, Jenna can usually be found hard at work in the garden at Selvas Cottage, where she has lived for the best part of 30 years.

The garden was open for the National Gardens Trust as usual this summer as part of Withybed Gardens, but regular visitors will spot a few changes:

“We had a major landslip during the winter when part of a bank slid down into the stream, which took a lot of work to clear away. Also some deer got into the garden and made a bit of a mess – but we will be ready!”

The garden also opens on the first Thursday each month (until October) as part of the Quiet Garden Trust, in which small groups of people can come and spend the day relaxing, contemplating or meditating in the peace and seclusion.

“We’ve been part of this since 2002, and it’s a lovely way to share our garden with others,” says Jenna.

Village readers might remember that in 2004 Jenna wrote and sold a small poetry collection – Quiet Thoughts from Quiet Places – in aid of the St John’s Church Landmark Appeal, and this is still available via the Quiet Garden Trust at

Here’s a sneak preview of three of the poems from Salt, including the title work. . .

On the cliff top we taste the sea in winter
the birdfeeder’s chain turns black
iron bleeds rust on the paving stones
windows gather a haze of salt
and the leaves of the rose bushes scorch

but when it turns warm
the breeze is full of the sea’s breath
smelling of sun bleached sheets
and summer’s idleness

I trace your body with my tongue
taste salt in each loved fold and crease
rise and fall in the swell of your sleep
the ceaseless conversation of the sea
soft in my ears.

On the Rampage
The wind is driving the sea crazy
tearing the tops off the waves
driving them up the beach
forcing them into the rocks
where they mill around
like cornered sheep.

Dirty white slavers the cliffs
and far inland foam gobbets
catch on the bushes
lie quivering in the grass
fleeing the war of water and wind.

Mirrored in the wet sand
she faces down the waves
seduced by the pull of the water
on her naked feet.

The rollers swagger in
sinking into smiles
unroll their bolts of silk
tangle them round her ankles

tug them back
clawing the sand from under her toes
race away from her dizzying eyes
and staggering feet.

The shouldering sea
speeds towards her
runs cold hands up to her knees
swirls away triumphant
as she runs laughing up the beach.


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