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In a City Garden, an essay on the art of David Barron (Swansea Museum Services, Swansea, 1988)




Gwalia in Khasia
(Gwasg Gomer, Llandysul, 1995)

Gwalia in Khasia is quite splendid and bears comparison with the work of travel writers such as Patrick Leigh Fermor, Jan Morris, Geoffrey Moorhouse, William Dalrymple and Paul Theroux. The richness of the description is, on occasion, breath-taking and the dialogue sections read like extracts from a highly distinguished novel .... this is the most distinguished piece of writing by a Welsh author for many a long day.’ – Dr John Davies, author of the Penguin History of Wales.   [  excerpt  ]

‘This is a fascinating story. The faith and the energy of those lonely men, six months’ travel from home, their young families dying around them, inspire equal feelings of awe and guilt in a fugitive Nonconformist like myself .... But what is almost as fascinating is that this story ... should be so completely unknown, even to those with a particular interest in the Welsh past. Gwalia in Khasia is well written and exhaustively researched.’ – Byron Rogers, Times Literary Supplement, 18 August 1995.

‘ ... moving and humorous, with a delicious sense of the absurd .... This is a book of generous discovery and rediscovery, as good a travel book (in the widest sense) as I have read in years.’ Glyn Pursglove, Swansea Review 15, 1995.

‘We seldom think of the Welsh as imperialists. As Empire-builders they were often half-hearted and as settlers they were generally soon assimilated. Their attempts to create New Waleses in distant parts ... were mostly doomed to failure, and the only Welsh colony generally remembered is the one in Argentinian Patagonia ... Now, here comes the gifted Swansea poet Nigel Jenkins to rescue from oblivion, in this lively travel-cum-history book, “the biggest overseas venture ever sustained by the Welsh” .... There is nothing parochial about the story he tells: it is the allegorical tale of two small strong people, coming together from the end of the earth, to find themselves curiously in sympathy.’ – Jan Morris, the Independent, 8 July 1995.




Wales: the Lie of the Land, with the photographer Jeremy Moore
(Gomer Press, Llandysul, 1996)



Llangadog, an essay, illustrated by Mary Lloyd Jones, on Garn Goch Iron Age Hillfort, in the Gregynog Press's 'Places' series (1996)




Literary Wales, an illustrated map commissioned by the Welsh Academy for the Wales Tourist Board (1997)







Footsore on the Frontier: Selected Essays and Articles
(Gomer Press, 2001)

‘ ... one of the liveliest books about contemporary Wales I have read in a long while .... of permanent value as the record of one man’s awareness of what it means to be Welsh today.’ – Meic Stephens, the Western Mail, 30 June 2001.

‘[An] eclectic, virtuoso, wry and poignant collection .... an important work of prose [which] illuminate[s] the binary and protean experience of Wales and Welshness’. – Stevie Davies, New Welsh Review 55, 2001.

‘While by no means a new phenomenon, essays and books authored by poets but treating culture, history and/or politics rather than purely literary subjects have become a vital genre in contemporary Wales ... One approaches such books in the hope that a poet might provide a fresh perspective on contemporary culture, and prove especially sensitized to nuances of language and the particulars of experience. Nigel Jenkins’s Footsore on the Frontier fulfils these expectations: it’s a lively and provoking addition to this “prose by poets” genre ... The essays seek to establish the relevance of art and artists to life in contemporary Wales, and to help transform our perception of the artist from that of “a lone crank on the irrelevant fringe” into a figure again “central to our national polity” ....Footsore on the Frontier is the product of a generous spirit and a probing intelligence: open to experience, drawn to detail, careful of abstraction or pretension, inventive in establishing subtle and surprising connections among disparate subjects. It’s the product of a writer who wants his words to communicate.’ – David Lloyd, Planet: The Welsh Internationalist 150, December 2001/January 2002.   [  excerpt  ]


Through the Green Door: Travels Among the Khasis
(Penguin, India, 2001)

‘Nigel Jenkins' travels among the Khasi and neighbouring tribals is a neutral but nostalgic Welshman's look at the contribution Welsh Protestant missionaries made to the life and culture of the hill people of what is today Meghalaya. The Mission functioned from 1840 to 1969 and unlike Catholics, who became Indian citizens and continued their work, the Welsh went back to the land of their fathers. Amongst the Mission's lasting achievements was the creation of the Khasi alphabet (in Roman script) .... It is fortunate that Nigel Jenkins is an unbeliever. This enables him to assess objectively the rise and fall of the Mission.’ – Bill Aitken, The Hindu, 7 October 2001.   [ website review ]

‘Every few years ... along comes a book that is simply delightful in the art of story telling, capturing the wet, rain-washed green carpets of the hills, the thunderous fall of the waterfall as a stream rushes to the plains, of the hopes and fears of communities and individuals, spanning little-known histories of little-known people. And how wonderful that the little-known people are not just the Khasis of Meghalaya .... but also the Welsh .... With such descriptive verve, can our man go wrong? He doesn’t and the result is a delightful discovery of the Khasis .... this is a great read; enjoy it for the pleasure of a compelling story of a little-known but wonderful people, who still follow a matrilineal system of inheritance, and of the men and women from a far off country, who gave their lives to bring change and their faith to the Khasis.’ – Sanjoy Hazarika, The Book Review XXXVI.1, January 2002.



Gwyddoniadur Cymru Yr Academi Gymreig
, golygwyd gyda Davies, John; Baines, Menna; Lynch, Peredur I, Gwasg Prifysgol Cymru (Caerdydd, 2008)

The Welsh Academy Encyclopaedia of Wales edited with Davies, John; Baines, Menna; Lynch, Peredur I, University of Wales Press
(Cardiff, 2008)


‘ ... the Encyclopaedia’s most remarkable feature is that it, a reference work, is so readable. The Dictionary of Welsh Biography is a solemn march past of the great and good (and stuffed with 19th-century chapel ministers). This is a rout of everyone who has ever intrigued its four editors ... the Encyclopaedia’s main value is as a work of reference, and just about everything you need to know about Wales is here: military defeats are listed, old heroes judiciously assessed and not crowed over, the colonial, then the Nonconformist night, described, from both of which the country is now emerging. It is all here. The most remarkable thing is that this has been made into bedside, and not just library, reading, for it is not all doom and gloom.’ – Byron Rogers, the Spectator, 5 July 2008.

‘The Welsh Academy has produced a splendid volume: in the cliché beloved by publishers, it should be on the shelves of every library worth the name. It is hard, in listing its merits, to refrain from superlatives. One uses it repeatedly, often reading articles remote from a first enquiry. Going to the entry on the Bible leads to reading about baseball, bees, or beer; or (more seriously) agriculture, astronomy ... , education, energy, insurance, geology, or science. A book capable of informing on such things, often with implications going far beyond Wales, is a triumph of enlightenment.’ – Andrew Breeze, English Historical Review Vol. CXXIV No. 508, June 2009.

‘As the crowning glory of nationhood, the Welsh now have their own sumptuously illustrated, thumping great encyclopaedia, subsidised by the National Lottery. It weighs as much as a newborn baby and its squawks are no less beguiling. The tone is ironic and self deprecatory throughout, for example in explaining the secret of Wales's success on the rugby field: “Recognising that the only way to defeat their socially superior, better-fed and bigger (but less imaginative) English and Scottish opponents was to think and act faster, Welsh rugby developed a tradition of producing nippy, elusive backs.” You don't get that sort of thing in the Britannica .... The book begins with “A Oes Heddwch?” (“Is there peace?”), the ritual question put to bards being crowned. It ends with “Zulu”, Stanley Baker and the heroic actions of the 24th South Wales Borderers ... In between these two entries lies a land of pure delight.’ – Ferdinand Mount, the Sunday Times.

‘Something is stirring west of Offa's Dyke. Welsh rugby players are winning, Welsh singers singing, Welsh politicians devolving, Welsh house prices soaring. And writers have stopped tearing out their hair in a paranoid rage over "What is Wales?" Besides, they now have a thundering 1,000-page answer, the Welsh Academy's superb Encyclopaedia of Wales. If ever a country were encapsulated in a volume, this is it .... It is a mark of the quality of this work that I found it so hard to find fault .... what makes a nation that has yet to win more than a veneer of political autonomy even compared with the Scots? The answer must be a sense of territory, a coherent history, a shared culture and a worthy parade of national heroes. This book offers a cavalcade of all these in dazzling abundance.’ – Simon Jenkins, the Guardian, 29 March 2008.

‘ ... as a general guide to all matters of Welshness, written for an average educated reader, it seems to me a triumph. Whether in Welsh or English, it will be a cherished companion to the nation for generations to come .... the book is not only an invaluable reference work, but also a great pleasure. Nobody interested in Wales could fail to enjoy a browse through its pages, and many Welsh people will be as interested in what they don't know as they are proud of how much they do.’ – Jan Morris, The Times, 29 February, 2008.





Real Swansea
(Seren Books, 2008)

‘Books of this kind are a marvellous amalgam of local history and personal recollection. In the past people would have either written a work of local history – names, dates and events of one degree of interest or another – or a work of a semi-autobiographical nature, highly personal. What books like Real Swansea do is to fuse the two, so that one informs and energises the other. I’ve lived and worked in Swansea for twenty-two years now and consider myself a student of the city’s history. Nevertheless Jenkins’s book told me things I had no inkling of and so has increased my enjoyment of the place .... The essence of a book like this is that the author is basically sharing a series of secrets with you .... It becomes not exactly a guide-book, more a compendium ... of stories about the place. If you choose the stories judiciously you can actually tell a fairly full history too, as facts and stories overlap without needing a chronological narrative. In theory there could be lots of different Real Swanseas all told from different perspectives. In reality I suspect Nigel Jenkins’s version is as good as it is going to get, and his choice of stories captures the essence of Swansea perfectly.’ – Richard Porch, Planet: The Welsh Internationalist 191, October/November 2008.

‘... written with genuine affection for the city, all of the city ... informative, eclectic and best of all thoroughly entertaining. You will read about the familiar, the forgotten and, even if Swansea born and bred, some of the never known. It is a fascinating book.’ – Swansea Life, September 2008.

‘“I don’t want no country hotel, man. I want downtown Swansea.” These words from the great American beat poet Allen Ginsberg might pass for a short description of this book on the second city of Wales by Jenkins, who clearly loves it .... Jenkins ... guides us entertainingly through history, anecdote and adventure .... If you know and love Swansea, you’ll know it better and love it more after reading this. If you don’t know it, you’ll find it here.’ – Steve Dubé, the Western Mail, 2 August 2008.

‘ ... it glories in local detail ... Again we have proof that all the best guide books have to be essentially subjective .... there is a freshness here that stems from the author’s pursuit of those aspects of his hometown by which he has been personally intrigued. He amply demonstrates that being a poet and a polymath are useful attributes in coming to terms with Swansea .... Jenkins is fascinated by the science and ecology of the Bay and he elevates his discussion of sewage disposal into the kind of analysis usually reserved for the Paris sewers. His reading of history is acute ...’ – Peter Stead, New Welsh Review 82, Winter 2008.

‘Gorrewer book furrah Crismuss prezzunt an juss harroowrite to say “Dai awn, bach”. I lurnt lots and larffed, too; an felt gellous bout yew dorters an Wine Street. Luvly to be yung, no cwestyun .... Goluck, then, boy an Ta Iawn! Gorranuther on the way?’ – Author Brian Davies, a Swansea expat living in London, in a letter to the author.




, with David Pearl  [ www.david-pearl.com ]
(Gomer Press, 2009)

‘ ... a superb evocation of the peninsula, its chequered history and rich culture ...’ – Meic Stephens, Cambria, II.5, Spring 2010.

‘Nigel Jenkins is a Gower man. Born and raised in the 1950s on a farm near Parkmill in the south, where the country “like a portly yeoman breathes a more privileged air”, he gambolled and frolicked like all farmer’s boys, and in doing so he absorbed by a kind of osmosis the character and personality of that well-farmed and well-ordered landscape. Today the farms around Parkmill are fragmented and some of them partially abandoned, while their new owners remain blissfully ignorant of past associations and fields long lost. Yet in Jenkins’ lyrical evocation of this fondly-remembered childhood stamping ground, field names, apparently meaningless to the present generation, are “as evocative of the acres they describe as the abstract name of a dear friend.” .... This sumptuous book of neatly-crafted essays and sometimes quirky poems offers a glimpse both of the facts of Gower and of the Gower of Jenkins’ imagination, the combination producing a work at once charming and disturbing .... Both Jenkins’ prose and poetry can be alternatively deliciously sensuous or darkly haunting .... Nigel Jenkins’ style and élan is echoed in the sometimes breathtaking photographs of David Pearl which happily avoid the mawkishness of so much colour photography. They capture the character of Gower in all its moods. Great open skies over the corn fields, misty seascapes, dank caves, sinuous creeks, all are enshrined in plates of an almost epic quality. But Pearl also has an unerring feel for the intimate. A lick of spume on golden sand, a beautifully-made nineteenth-century door latch or even a sheet of decaying and rusty galvanised steel take on a certain poignant elegance in the eye of his questing lens. In their composition, execution and finish Pearl’s photographs brilliantly complement Jenkins’ felicitous text.’ – Richard Moore-Colyer, Planet: The Welsh Internationalist 197, January 2010.

‘This sumptuously-illustrated Gomer publication ... is a book to savour – a celebration of Gower which must rank as one of the foremost books on this unique area. It marries beautifully the elegiac prose and poetry of Nigel Jenkins with the evocative images which David Pearl’s camera has captured. This book will stand the test of time, for Nigel has encapsulated the essence of Gower as only a Gowerian can. The stunning photographs complement the text beautifully – if nothing else they urge you to get out into Gower to try to emulate David’s skill and artistry.’ – The Gower Society Newsletter, Spring 2101    [ website review ]    [  excerpt  ]