Lantern by Seán Hewitt
PBS Summer Pamphlet Choice 2019
‘Lantern is astonishing. I love these poems for their musicality and their sensuous, tender rapture. Hewitt conjures otherworldly glossaries of tree and thorn and somehow, in our torn world, finds wood-lore and balm. Each poem is a greenwood prayer, and taken together, they are a beautiful, sung breviary, that finds in the wild a grace that, far from being fleeting and elusive, runs deep and clear . . . It’s a collection I’ll be returning to again and again for the same. As Hewitt has it: The world is dark / but the wood is full of stars.’
‘In these luscious, breathtaking poems, the reader is subject to a queering, in the sense of something made strange; the self and the landscape are blended in myth, in prayer, in exploration of the self. Lantern is a pamphlet to always carry with you; it will light a way through to the very centre of your heart.’
Wild and deep as the forests they explore, Seán Hewitt’s poems go to the woods to understand, to follow the ‘searching root’ of ‘snowberry, hazels, thistles, bracken’ to the source. The trees hum with information, with messages and myths to be read and understood: ‘the willow with its head laid down /on the water is whispering something’ and a poet can stand in the winter woods and ask to know ‘What is the sound of winter . . . and where does it go?’
Here there is prayer: to the wych-elm and to the darkness, and to the secret language of oak. These are queer spaces, these consecrated places of communion and sex, secluded and dripping with rain, of the men who meet each other outside in the ‘dark chamber of the wood’, who find their urgent way through the undergrowth ‘like deer plummeting through the wet branches’.
As well as love, Lantern deals in loss, opening with the assertion that ‘woods are forms of grief / grown from the earth. This is a jewel-bright and quietly euphoric debut, as thrilling in its physicality as it is dextrous in its imagination, and, despite the thorns of love and pain, unafraid to dive into the wilderness.