chequerboard chess game, red black and whiteCov Kids, Antony Owen

Knives Forks and Spoons Press, 2021   £8.00

Explosive resistance

Cov Kids is a vibrant, detailed exploration of Antony Owen’s adolescence in Coventry. His poems celebrate the culture of that time through a left-wing political lens. Working class pride and anger is explicit in every aspect of this pamphlet. I love the fiery voice, the refusal to compromise, the explosive resistance.

In the poem ‘The House Three Doors from My Nan’s’ we’re introduced to a cinematic scene during the Blitz. Each line is unrelenting with the energy of a speeding train:

My Nan was unscathed, just pinioned like a shrew in a cat’s paw.
She was a driver of three carriages that wailed without stopping.

For all of us who loved our Grans, we can enjoy the influence of Owen’s Nan within this pamphlet. I invite you to read the poem in which she has a cuppa with our current PM. 

‘Cov Kids’, the title poem written ‘For old friends’, is thick with memories and resilience. We read of local heroes and bold actions. Like so many of Owen’s poems, the language is witty and gritty:

Cov was always grey, but we burned brighter than Phoenixes:
rising up, tearing it down, yet building our characters and…

new Cov Kids with fire in their raging phoenix hearts.

The poet Leanne Bridgewater is commemorated in the poem ‘The Brave Leave Willingly’. With her suicide in mind, the narrator wants ‘to rip out the tongues of his shoes’, ‘punch the whiteface of a mocking clock’. The stanzas proclaim angry shock and regret. He curses ‘the route I never took to you’:

Your death made me stop my car on Leamington Road,
move a fox from roaring road to a lullaby lay-by.

The poem ‘Closing Libraries in the City of Culture’ deftly lays out three personal experiences in an inventive form. Lines reduce in length as the poem develops down the page, reflecting the real diminishment, as libraries are lost.

Antony Owen is a Coventry poet writing about the folk of his city. His local perspective becomes national, international, universal. This is to be celebrated.

Maggie Mackay