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Interview with Patrick Jones

(December 01, 2012)

Interview with Patrick Jones

Patrick Jones - portrait

Patrick Jones is a poet and dramatist, born and brought up in the south Wales valleys, where he still lives. His work has been well received by critics and fellow artists alike. Human rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell, described his 2008 collection, Darkness is where the stars are (Cinnamon Press), as "thoughtful, provocative and challenging, these poems engage and enrage", and it was noted by Harold Pinter as “very strong stuff”. The Guardian review of Everything Must Go said "Everything Must Go is striking enough to do for Welsh theatre what the Manics and Catatonia have done for its music."

Patrick's career has included working alongside: Academi; Literature Wales; National Assembly for Wales; BBC Wales; Chapter Arts Centre; Llanhilleth Institute; Glyn Coch Communities First; St David’s Foundation Hospice Care; The Samaritans; NCH Headlands; Tredegar Development Trust; Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly and Rhondda Cynon Taf CBCs; Gwent Theatre; Welsh National Opera; and the Manic Street Preachers.

Appointed Poet in Residence at Velindre Hospital, Cardiff, in 2012, Patrick is currently working on The Crusades, a commission for National Theatre Wales.

Patrick kindly took time out from his schedule to talk to us ...


CC … How do you begin composing a new poem? Do you have the idea already sketched out before writing, or just the basic concept?

PJ … Mostly when inspiration strikes. It's something in my personal life, or some injustice or story out in the world that jolts me. I usually start with an image or a first line that guides me through the poem and launch into it. I never sketch. Just go with it. I sometimes re-draft and sharpen the poem after letting it settle.

CC … Do you write for yourself, or with the reader in mind?

PJ … Mostly for myself. But I have a reader in mind with regards emotional connection to the piece. A poem needs to be read and felt, so I never try to confuse or alienate.

CC … How do you know when a poem is finished?

PJ … Even when I read out loud at a poetry reading, I re-write and change the odd word. But there is a point at which I know I have said what I set out to say.

CC … What would be a 'normal' day for you?

PJ … Get up early. Quick cup of tea. Off to the gym and swim. Clear my head. Home. Make breakfast for the family. Get them off to school and college. Then writing. Bliss of silence. Drink tea. Write. Then, usually, I will have a writing workshop to deliver, so off to that. It gets me out into the world!!! Home. Cook tea. Heating on. Family time. Relax. After about 10pm, silence returns. More writing and sending work off and applying for funding or writing work. Sleep.

Patrick Jones - portrait

CC … Which other poets do you read most?

PJ … Carol Ann Duffy; Allen Ginsberg; Sylvia Plath; Adrian Mitchell; Idris Davies; and Maya Angelou.

CC … Which do you prefer: poetry or drama?

PJ … Both. Whatever finds its voice in my head. Some days poems. Some days plays. Both are very different. And sometimes, weeks of poems and weeks of plays.

CC … Which other forms of writing have you considered?

PJ …  I have written film scripts and songs. Never a novel. I just can't do it!!! Even though novels first inspired me.

CC … As a self-confessed 'old rocker', what made you decide to concentrate on writing, leaving rock 'n roll to others?

PJ … Quite simple really … I can only play 5 chords!!!!!

CC … What music do you listen to now?

PJ … Oh, endless ... from retro: indie; post-punk; The Jam; The Clash; The Slits; Wire; Gang of Four; U2; Echo & the Bunnymen, to heavy: Stuff; Black Sabbath; Rush; Diamond Head; Budgie; UFO; Led Zeppelin, to contemporary post-rock: Godspeed You! Black Emperor; Pelican; Explosions in the Sky.

CC … What led to your involvement with the Manic Street Preachers album, Generation Terrorist?

PJ … I had just read a pile of poems onto tape and sent them to the boys; I was living in the USA at the time. Then James just picked the beat sections and added some guitars. I felt very honoured.

CC … Who were your childhood heroes?

PJ … Peter Lorimer (Leeds United); Steve Cram; Steve McQueen; Joe Strummer (The Clash); Jake Burns (Stiff Little Fingers); Alex Lifeson (Rush).

CC … While you were growing up, did your family seem particularly creative to you?

PJ … Yes, in a way. My dad was, and is, the most creative builder, carpenter, bricklayer, painter, fixer of all time, and what he can do with some nails, black masking tape and a hammer is nobody's business!!! And my mother was always saving the whales and campaigning in her own sweet way about the environment and animal rights. We weren't a wanky, do-gooder liberal left family at all. My mother and father just guided us and let us find our own way, however rocky!!!! And I thought people who said 'loo' 'lunch' and 'vase' were posh!!! And … my dad has kept a diary for over 50 years, which is more creative than me and Nick [Nicky Wire of the Manic Street Preachers, Patrick Jones' brother – Ed] together!!!!!

CC … Has your upbringing affected your work?

PJ … Yes, definitely. Battling hard; nothing comes easy; struggle; aware of poverty; justice; searching for meaning; chip on my shoulder, which I polish every day; aware of class differences and a need to stand up and be strong; never submit. Alongside our geography, I was bullied in school, which gave me a huge emotional pain and struggle - and revenge is a constant theme in my work - on a societal and personal level!!


Guardian, Six BellsGuardian, Sebastien Boyesen, at Six Bells Colliery, Abertillery
12.6m (60ft) tall on a 7.4m plinth, steel strips and standstone

CC … What do you recognise in Blackwood from your childhood? What has changed?

PJ … More concrete; less nature. More Cash Generator shops; less cafés. More drug dealers; less poets.

CC … When did you know you needed to write?

PJ … From about the age of 16. I needed to find words to express pain and scars. I was no good at fighting, so I needed to vent my anger some other way. I had always been influenced by music and bands, and they were my first calling card and inspiration; from Rush to The Clash.

CC … In writing terms, do you see yourself as a late starter?

PJ … In a way, yes (as in published). But, as I said, writing from an early age and finding ways to express and create, were always a part of my life. It's been a bit of an albatross really!!!! I should have got a real job.

Patrick Jones - portrait
CC … Do you recall the catalyst for your first poem?

PJ … Girlfriend finishing with me - end of!!!

CC … What effect do you think your work has had?

PJ … I have no idea. I've made enemies and supporters.

CC … What is your vision for Wales?

PJ … I see a Wales that is creative; political - socialist, without oppression;  environmentally aware; international; fair and equal; radical; inspired by our past. Working for today and dreaming of tomorrow.

CC … Do you think of yourself as a poet and dramatist who happens to write about politics, or as a political author?

PJ … Some of my work is, was and shall be political … and some very, very personal.

CC … Which of your poetry recitals is the most memorable?

PJ … I try to make each one count. When I read or perform, I feel it is like going into battle, and I try to connect finding my authentic voice. To provoke and make others feel something.

A mad one was in front of 40,000 Manics fans on New Year's Eve, 1999. [The Manic Millennium. I was there – Ed] It was pretty weird on stage, with Ioan Gruffydd and Matthew Rhys, and a band screaming poems!!!! That ranks alongside a tiny reading in Blaengarw to 5 people, one of whom came up to me afterwards and said "You are a very brave poet", which touched me deeply.

CC … Your Welsh Refugee Council and the Arts Council of Wales collaboration, Me and Mine, sounds interesting. How did you become involved?

PJ … I was so sick of the right wing press pointing the finger, causing panic by exaggerating the number of people from other countries here. So I approached the Welsh Refugee Council to see if they would be interested in a project that gave voice and a platform to those who had settled here and made a life. We  filmed three poems from former refugees. It was very moving and, I felt, very relevant to the debate about borders, identity and expression. A Russian astronaut said “from space there are no borders” - my mantra. So fuck off Griffin, Hamas, BNP, Muslims Against Crusades, IDF ...

CC … National Theatre Wales has been responsible for some innovative, and sometimes radical work, since its launch in 2009. What has been its effect, and how have you been involved?

PJ … I think it has changed the face of Welsh theatre - taken it to a higher level - and made it bigger, brighter, more accessible and better run. Before, it was open to accusations of being a fucking incestuous clique, commissioning their friends' shit plays. Now, it stands strong, working with all sorts of people, all ideas and many different platforms, which is what was needed. All I did was to badger John McGrath [Artistic Director with the National Theatre Wales - Ed] with ideas, pitches, drafts of plays, and I was lucky to get a commission. It's all about hard graft - editing work, developing your script, bearing witness and having something to say. It's not merely speaking fucking Welsh, writing for S4 fucking C and knowing one of the directors. It is much more universal and international, while still connecting and developing creativity in Wales.

CC … What does your work with Velindre Hospital entail?

PJ … Poet in residence. Writing workshops, readings, training. How words can help express inner pain. It is a very fulfilling and relevant piece of work. I am honoured to be involved. I have the easy job … the nurses and staff work so hard and are such amazing people. They are truly inspirational.

CC … What are you working on at the moment, and when do you expect we will be able to see it?

PJ … I'm working on a new collection of poems; three new plays - hopefully one next year - and many different projects within the community. As Arthur Miller said about his own work, “I hope my plays make people feel less alone”. Onwards, onwards. Let us disturb the peace.

CC … Patrick Jones, thank you.


Performed Work

Everything Must Go, (Sherman Theatre, March 1999, with a tour of UK in 2000)
The Guerilla Tapestry, performed at the opening of the Welsh Assembly 'Voices Of A Nation' concert, 1999
Pictures Of The Gone World, a film poem directed by Joanna Hughes for BBC Wales, 1999
Unprotected Sex (Sherman Theatre October, 1999)
The war is dead, long live the war (2003)
Bridges, a play commissioned by Blaenau Gwent CBC for its Inter Generational Project, performed November 2006
Sing to Me, new play to commemorate the writing of the Welsh National Anthem with Gwent Theatre, Autumn 2006
The Sad Bells of Rhymney, Radio 4/BBC Wales commission to write new lyrics to Idris Davies' poem The Bells of Rhymney, performed by Mike Peters (The Alarm)
Faction Collective: Revelation, Chapters Arts Centre July 2008 (based on testimony from men who have been victims of domestic violence)

Published Work

The Guerilla Tapestry, 1995
The Protest Of Discipline, 1996
Detritus, 1997
Mute Communion, 1997
Commemoration and Amnesia (Big Noise Productions, 1999)
Fuse (Parthian Books, 2001)
Against, 2003
Darkness is where the stars are (Cinnamon Press, 2008)
Tongues for a Stammering Time (Anhrefn Records, 2009)


You can follow Patrick Jones on Twitter on @heretic101
and his wesite is


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