J. Brookes was born 1951 in South East London. He left school as soon as possible and stayed in Britain only long enough to be kicked out of Leeds Art College before going abroad. He spent the next ten years, thumb-out, zig-zagging Europe and the Middle East before landing up in Belfast in the mid 70s. He worked there for a couple of years, then applied to do a degree at The University of Ulster, Coleraine, where the English Department was full of poetry (Derek Mahon Poet in Residence, James Simmons and Frank McGuinness lecturers, Heaney a frequent visitor). He taught English for several years in the Sudan, then Turkey, then, pausing only to do a Masters at Sheffield, took a job first as a cleaner, then a nursing assistant in a Brighton psychiatric hospital. He fell in love with a Welsh woman and moved to Cardiff in 1990.
Here, he started The Yellow Crane (successor to The Cardiff Poet) in 1995. Several pamphlets, amongst which are Dusting the Bin (Red Sharks Press, 1994), an account in poems of working as a cleaner in a psychiatric hospital, The Deafening Nose (The Profitless Press, 2001), a prose-poem account of a long day’s walk around Cardiff with excited and despairing thoughts and Nobby: Prince of Wales (The Profitless Press, 2006), the fruits of a year working as an Echo-seller.
I, Mr. Nick Fisk first encountered J. Brookes’s work in the now-closed Albany Road bookshop, although I may have been aware of The Yellow Crane prior to this. From this shop, I took a copy of 43 Poems (it was free, after all). On returning home, I discovered I had forgotten my key, so while waiting for someone to return to let me in, I read the majority of the book, and very much enjoyed it, coming to the conclusion that it was probably better than most books of poetry I had previously bought.
Subsequently, I have had work turned down by J. Brookes for The Yellow Crane, although I think perhaps one of my poems was printed. I have also met the gentleman on several occasions, befriended him, and, in 2004, invited him to be a part of the Evening of Contemporary Comedic Poetry. I now live just down the road from him, and frequently join him for a pint. Earlier on this year (2008), I suggested that I should try to publish a book of his poetry, and now, finally, this event should be taking place, with the release of The Dresden Cantata by Square Books, in November.
For those of you quaking with excitement at this prospect, we present to you seven taster poems by the marvellous Mr. Brookes. The first 3 of these will be included in the book, while the other 4 are either new, or just missed out on being included.
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