Tongues of Fire
**SHORTLISTED FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES / UNIVERSITY OF WARWICK YOUNG WRITER OF THE YEAR AWARD 2020**
**A SPECTATOR AND IRISH TIMES BOOK OF THE YEAR 2020**
A remarkable first collection by an important new poet
In this collection, Sean 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.
Mature beyond his years, Hewitt is already the master of the glittering fragment... This is an astonishingly assured debut delivered in a poetic voice that has eloquence, compassion, and serenity in equal measure. Always there is a relentless striving to discover the numinous in nature, the same supplicant energy you find in the pantheistic tradition of Wordsworth, Whitman, John Clare, and Seamus Heaney... Hewitt seems to have sprung fully formed into the literary world and, on this showing, nothing seems beyond him. -- Bert Wright * Sunday Times * I fell in love with these wild, heartsore, ecstatic poems. They lead us to deep, hushed places - in the woods and heaths, in our hearts and bodies - and unearth such tenderness and dark treasure. Tongues of Fire is a beautiful book and Sean Hewitt is an extraordinary writer. -- Liz Berry Sean Hewitt understands that poetic form is sacred and mysterious. In these godforsaken times his reverent procedures are food for the soul. -- Michael Longley 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. -- Fiona Benson It is extraordinary to encounter a debut collection that feels as established as Sean 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. -- Kate Kellaway * Observer *Poetry Book of the Month* *
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