30 JUNE 2020
Here are the final poems from the Poetry Book Society in their series of locked down suggestions. Thank you to Liveryman Ian Grant for liaising with them and to Alice Mullen of the Poetry Book Society for her selections. Members should log in to their own area of the website to read them and details of a special Members' offer.
For our final guest blog and our 10th PBS poem curation on the Stationers' website we're presenting two stunning poems by Seán Hewitt from his PBS Summer Recommendation Tongues of Fire. St John's Wort and Leaf. Both are from from Tongues of Fire by Seán Hewitt published by Jonathan Cape. Reproduced by permission of The Random House Group Ltd. ©2020.
Writing in the PBS Summer Bulletin, Seán explained, "I have two poetic fascinations: a poetry of the body, which is an inheritance from queer writers, and a poetry of the natural world seen slant. In Tongues of Fire, I hope, these two things come together, and are rarely distinct… My father died on the day I signed the contract for Tongues of Fire, and the final poems deal with all the world-tilting confusion of losing a parent, and try to map the strangeness of the world as it appeared to me in those months. They are, in a sense, pre-elegies; they are also poems that I wish I never had the occasion to write.” This world-tilting strangeness of loss will resonate with many in our current moment. Although arriving empty-handed 'St John's Wort' offers us a token of love and healing, the gift of empathy and something truly luminous, “something akin / to happiness”.
Sitting alongside this grief, 'Leaf' reminds us all to see the beauty of the natural world and hold on to hope, "For even in the nighttime of life / it is worth living, just to hold it”.
Seán Hewitt's debut pamphlet of poems, Lantern (Offord Road Books, 2019), won an Eric Gregory Award in 2019 and was the Poetry Book Society Summer Pamphlet Choice for 2019. In 2014, he was awarded Arts Council England funding, and in 2015 was selected as one of the Poetry Trust's Aldeburgh Eight. He won a Northern Writers' Award in 2016, and the Resurgence Prize in 2017. He is a book critic for The Irish Times and a Government of Ireland Fellow at University College Cork.