I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

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Followed by Silence

Lantern, by Seán Hewitt, Offord Road Books, 26 pp, £6, ISBN: 978-1999930493 There is so much speech in this collection ‑ not all of which is spoken. Voices are “alien”, language is that of folkloric trees, mouths are mossy; the undergrowth is full of moans. Even in the (almost) silence, there is a need for one’s ear to remain ready, on alert. At moments when we fear that all sound could so easily be lost – faltering radio signals, water’s “hushed” orchestra, the sounds of winter; so nearly drowned out by the elements – all is still within our clawing grasp. I don’t recall ever experiencing a more arresting opening line than that which we are gifted with in “Leaf”: for woods are forms of grief’ and none other could have so properly determined the rest of the route. This is a collection with loss, sorrow, fear and longing buried at its roots. But in the new growth, some leaves still not even unfurled, we also find such hope, such dedication to life; able, rather than unable:  to turn the light into strength. The authorial voice is strong and authentic, forcing us to keep up, though shattered we may be. These are words about life and birth, and we must listen: an animal sound, a noise so primitive that I felt inhuman, how I cried like something new-born. During moments when the air is circular and seemingly still ‑ still, even then ‑ in that weightless quietude; a lone fox, barking. We are ready for him. He is all at once the place both in and of itself. He is the poet that has written him into being; he is, too, nothing more than a creature made of blood and bones, is that fox. Hewitt’s work takes the natural world and unearths it from the places in which we so keenly try to entomb it. He brings us that little bit closer to ourselves, the deeper into the work we go; in doing so we are more in the world, (writhing, almost, in the humus) than when we entered. We are on an overgrown pathway – watched but not hunted; the way untrodden yet somehow as familiar as the womb. In this current moment in our world where many among us find our voices increasingly silenced, the odd, almost ancient means of communication afforded in Hewitt’s work to things unseen,…

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