Thinking with Trees
Winner of the Poetry Category OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature 2022.
An Irish Times Best Poetry Books of 2021.
A White Review Book of the Year 2021.
Jason Allen-Paisant grew up in a village in central Jamaica. ‘Trees were all around,’ he writes, ‘we often went to the yam ground, my grandmother’s cultivation plot. When I think of my childhood, I see myself entering a deep woodland with cedars and logwood all around. […] The muscular guango trees were like beings among whom we lived.’
Now he lives in Leeds, near a forest where he goes walking. ‘Here, trees represent an alternative space, a refuge from an ultra-consumerist culture…’ And even as they help him recover his connections with nature, these poems are inevitably political.
As Malika Booker writes, ‘Allen-Paisant’s poetic ruminations deceptively radicalise Wordsworth’s pastoral scenic daffodils. The collection racializes contemporary ecological poetics and its power lies in Allen-Paisant’s subtle destabilization of the ordinary dog walker’s right to space, territory, property and leisure by positioning the colonised Black male body’s complicated and unsafe reality in these spaces.’
'Jason Allen-Paisant deftly inscribes his own signature on worlds inner and outer in these gorgeous poems. The future of Caribbean lyric poetry is in great hands.' - Lorna Goodison; 'These observant poems lay their burdens down by the rivers of Babylon and try to sing the Lord's song in a strange land. What might it mean for the black body to experience nature, not as labour, but as leisure? What might it mean to simply walk through a park and observe the birds and the trees? These poems are beautiful and gentle, but the questions they raise are difficult and important.' - Kei Miller; 'In these quietly subversive lyrics, expectations are undone, of ecologies, of people, of poems.' - Rachael Allen; 'The power of this expansive, original book is in its attention to the ways in which a sense of leisure, territory and belonging is an implicit, racialised underpinning in the long tradition of nature writing ... Thinking with Trees is an expansive, fracturing, subversive book.' - Sean Hewitt, The Irish Times; 'The poet scrupulously decouples nature from any sense of private ownership, opening himself up to more generous, alternative worldviews. This is a bold and impressive debut.' - David Wheatley, Guardian Review Roundup; 'Allen-Paisant has penned a debut that may be years ahead of its time.' - Anthony Anaxagorou; '[A] remarkable debut poetry collection [...] Gently, beautifully, unsettlingly about race, nature, naming, access, green-ness...and, yes, trees & forests. This is going to be a book I return to, teach with, learn from.' - Robert Macfarlane
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