** WINNER OF THE LAUREL PRIZE 2021 **
**A SPECTATOR AND IRISH TIMES BOOK OF THE YEAR 2020**
**SHORTLISTED FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES / UNIVERSITY OF WARWICK YOUNG WRITER OF THE YEAR AWARD 2020**
**SHORTLISTED FOR THE JOHN POLLARD FOUNDATION INTERNATIONAL POETRY PRIZE 2021**
**SHORTLISTED FOR THE DALKEY LITERARY EMERGING WRITER OF THE YEAR AWARD 2021**
A remarkable first collection by an important new poet
In this collection, Seán Hewitt gives us poems of a rare musicality and grace. By turns searing and meditative, these are lyrics concerned with the matter of the world, its physicality, but also attuned to the proximity of each moment, each thing, to the spiritual.
Here, there is sex, grief, and loss, but also a committed dedication to life, hope and renewal. Drawing on the religious, the sacred and the profane, this is a collection in which men meet in the woods, where matter is corrupted and remade. There are prayers, hymns, vespers, incantations, and longer poems which attempt to propel themselves towards the transcendent.
In this book, there is always the sense of fragility allied with strength, a violence harnessed and unleashed. The collection ends with a series of elegies for the poet's father: in the face of despair, we are met with a fierce brightness, and a reclamation of the spiritual. 'This is when / we make God, and speak in his voice.'
Paying close attention to altered states and the consolations and strangeness of the natural world, this is the first book from a major poet.
Seán Hewitt soars... His poetry will stand the test of time, for...the sheer musicality of the language, the lightness on his metrical feet, and his keen ear for "the music of what happens" charm the reader into submission. This is an astonishingly assured debut delivered in a poetic voice that has eloquence, compassion, and serenity in equal measure...in the pantheistic tradition of Wordsworth, Whitman, John Clare, and Seamus Heaney... When it comes to nascent talent, we Irish have a tendency to mistake the fifth or sixth month of pregnancy for the ninth, thrusting premature greatness upon the liveliest embryos. By contrast, Hewitt seems to have sprung fully formed into the literary world and, on this showing, nothing seems beyond him.
It is extraordinary to encounter a debut collection that feels as established as Seán Hewitt’s… These unmediated poems are, at the same time, charged: they pull you in swiftly, you become immersed… In ‘Tongues of Fire’, the title piece and last in the collection, the present is burning. It is an exceptionally moving poem – impossible to read without a lump in the throat… He grafts the people and circumstances of his life on to nature with unerring brilliance… This is, above all, a devotional collection and will lift the spirits of all who read it…. He has a gift for gravity, rootedness, calm… Hewitt has the confidence to relax and to allow his poems, in an unaffected and sometimes conversational way, to speak to the heart.
I fell into [Tongues of Fire] one morning and read the whole book through and it truly warmed my soul. He's an exquisitely calm and insightful lyric poet, reverential in nature and gorgeously wise in the field of human drama. It's a stunning collection of poems.
Very accomplished poems.
This is an extraordinary collection - heart-bruising, tender - one to cherish, and live by. Though Hewitt moves us through anguish and destruction, love still glows; and in the dark undoings of these poems, decay lights the wildwood with its strange, ethereal foxfire. As Hewitt writes, "it is hard to tell where heaven starts"; I find it in these poems, which are beyond-gorgeous, beyond-glorious, blood-felt, feral, luminous.