In Terry’s poem, ‘The Works’, an autobiographical narrative of seminal experiences in the terrifying ‘underworld’ of a steel works, there is a wonderfully memorable yet unassuming sentiment that signposts this man’s journey in rhyme and verse. Telling us that he worked with many people in that place of molten steel and flame who forged him into the man he is today, he says, “I’m all of them And only some of me.” For Terry’s poetic sensibility has itself been cast in the crucible of these friendships, experiences and life lessons. His profound observation of who we are and what made us says many things about the nature of all our lives, the restless, shifting pattern of relationships, meetings, loves and losses and ultimately the hilarious absurdity of it all.
So, out of the mould comes the: father, teacher, musician, band leader, football fan and poet and in the poems are many of those who have moved in and out of this man's life over forty years. The ‘some of me’, well that's Terry’s pride as a Welshman, his sense of community, the anger at hypocrisy and injustice, the acerbic wit, the hard won compassion, the sheer bloody-mindedness and the unrepentant sense of humour.
Although finding a voice in the free verse form, Terry’s compassion is for the rhyming quatrain, a stanza that expresses his most poignant moods and the laughter of his funniest ballads. Yet it is the sheer range of this collection that is most surprising.
It registers the anguish of communities that seem to have had their hearts ripped out through acts of political expediency, it captures the back breaking work of those clinging to their dignity, it evokes time and place, it renders most movingly the self doubt of a parent and most resoundingly it celebrates with great humour the characters, situations and predicaments of quotidian life.
However it is hardly surprising that Terry’s hero is Spike Milligan, master Goon
and jazz musician-poet. Hardly a day goes by without Terry regaling his friends and colleagues
with a Spike quote, anecdote, sketch or joke. In fact, he said recently that Spike wanted
the words “I told you I was ill” carved on his headstone. I'm sure he knows
that the Chichester diocese would not allow this but conceded that the Gaelic translation
“Duirt me leat go raibh me breiote”.
Although Terry plans on being around for a good while yet his emotional poem ‘Reflection’ closes
And life goes on without us
Just like it did before
I simply can’t believe it
I’ve walked out through that open door.
A fitting epitaph. Yet something tells me Terry would prefer, “Who left that bloody door open.”
What is that in Welsh?