It is a sad day for Swansea and the literary world today as it was announced that much-loved poet and director of Creative Writing at Swansea University, Nigel Jenkins, has passed away at the age of 64. Nigel passed away last night at the Ty Olwen hospice in Morriston following a short battle with pancreatic cancer, leaving the Welsh literary scene and our university with a great and irreplaceable loss.
Many of us here at The Siren have been fortunate enough to have been tutored by Nigel Jenkins, a former winner of the Welsh Book of the Year Award and whose prolific career included the poetry collections Hotel Gwales and Ambush as well as several collections of haiku and his studies on his local environment Real Swansea and Real Swansea 2. Always keen to explore his Welsh roots, Nigel’s writing was rich with shrewd observations of the South Wales landscape and this was always reflected in his encouragement of his students to become engaged with their local environment and culture. I remember one lecture in particular where we were asked to go for a walk around the university grounds and really notice the little things: the accents overheard; the nature in Singleton Park’s colourful gardens; human interactions in coffee shops or outside the library. Nigel Jenkins was a teacher who was not only remarkably talented, but keen to inspire that passion in his own students and it was always agreed that without him, poetry for many in my class would still be a terrifying prospect. Encouraged by such a patient and humorous lecturer, the majority of us are keen to continue putting pen to paper through poetry.
He traditionally read his own poems at graduation ceremonies and it certainly added a touch of something special to such a memorable day of celebration. He was also the main supporter of Swansea poetry night The Howl (formerly The Crunch) at Mozart’s, which to this day continues to be an extremely popular literary event and was a huge part of 2013’s Cwtch the Bid.
Fellow students have expressed their sadness. Catherine Rowland, 3rd year English Literature student, says of the loss: “He once emailed me about my poetry blog and said some really encouraging things to me about it… he was a lovely man and will be very much missed.” PhD student Georgia Carys Williams agrees, “I won’t forget the moment I first heard that rich and distinctive Welsh voice reading a single Haiku in 2007…who could forget that voice? I’m grateful to have met, been mentored by and known such a man and poet, whose words will always be with us, some of them written within the landscape of Swansea itself— a genuine, wonderful man.”
Nigel Jenkins was not just a great poet, role model and teacher but a great friend to many. Anyone can be a teacher, but it really does take a rare kind of person to inspire passion.
by Natalie Ann Holborow