Look through the window / and see the place you are standing: / at a crossroads in the Forest.
Stewart Carswell grew up in the Forest of Dean, but currently lives in Cambridgeshire, where he organizes the Fen Speak open mic night. He studied Physics at Southampton University and has a PhD from Bristol University. His debut pamphlet “Knots and branches” was published by Eyewear in 2016.
Stewart’s work is very much grounded by a sense of place, space and history: all these themes resonate in a collection which also has its fair share of reflective, personal moments too. Many of these poems are also directly linked to landmarks, both man made and natural.
Lessons from the Text
As we come to the end of the Sealey Challenge this year, I realize that this is the first collection I’ve chosen that uses history and the environment, in the main, as its backdrop. Stewart’s gentle grace and easy accessibility makes the journeys both compelling and enjoyable, and read with pictures of the places he often describes, extremely evocative.
Of particular note in this collection is the trio of verses that make up Far into the deep Forest, a rumination on mortality in Extinction on the tenant farmer’s holding and the rich and multi-faceted Mast year, juxtaposing cannon fire with the torrent of acorns fired into an unsuspecting forest floor. Imagery of numerous histories effortlessly combines with the natural world and the unstoppable passage of time.
This book, and this writer were both discovered during Lockdown thanks to the massive increase of Zoom Open Mic and Reading events. I’d probably never have heard of Stewart otherwise, and this is also your scheduled reminder that there is a massive world of spoken word events still taking place virtually, even now. It doesn’t have to just be about reading new work. You can find places to listen to it too.
Will you read it again? I’ve been working on an environmentally-themed piece in the last few weeks, and this was part of my pre-project reading list. Yes, I will be coming back to it as a result.
Would you recommend it for me to read? I’ve not said no to a single book yet, and today will not be any different.