Gwyneth Lewis’s highly inventive Sparrow Tree puts nature writing in a spin, presenting a huge variety of birds, both British and American: blue tits, blackbirds, egrets, juncos, starlings, herons and hummingbirds as well as the sparrows of the title. The book explores birds as mouthpieces for inhuman song and the wild inside the mind. Launching flights of avian fancy or fantasy on several levels, Sparrow Tree moves from birdsong as proto-language to birds as decorative beings. The collection includes her already well-known How to Knit a Poem, commissioned by BBC Radio 4, and ends with images of the human word as a form of love.
‘One of the most exhilaratingly gifted poets of her generation’ – M. Wynn Thomas, Guardian ‘Felicitous, urbane, heartbreaking, the poems of Gwyneth Lewis form a universe whose planets use language for oxygen and thus are inhabitable’ – Joseph Brodsky ‘Gwyneth Lewis has so many of the gifts required for good poetry: command of form, with improvisation enlivening tradition; supple rhythm; originality of subject-matter and the right eye to pin down detail; humour, both sardonic and direct; and, above all, commitment to human feeling’ – Peter Porter ‘Such exuberant invention… The range of reference is so wide, we are intoxicated by it’ – Elaine Feinstein, Independent ‘True stars in poetry like Gwyneth Lewis always match brilliance with warmth. She is the one to bet on’ – Les Murray
Gwyneth Lewis was Wales’s National Poet from 2005 to 2006, the first writer to be given the Welsh laureateship. Her first six books of poetry in Welsh and English were followed by Chaotic Angels (2005) from Bloodaxe, which brings together the poems from her English collections, Parables & Faxes, Zero Gravity and Keeping Mum, and by A Hospital Odyssey (2010), with The Sparrow Tree due in 2011. She also has published two non-fiction titles, Sunbathing in the Rain: A Cheerful Book about Depression (Flamingo, 2002) and Two in a Boat: A Marital Voyage (Fourth Estate, 2005). Her last Welsh collection, Y Llofrudd Iaith (Barddas, 2000), won the Welsh Arts Council Book of the Year Prize, and her last English collection, Keeping Mum was shortlisted for the same prize. Both Zero Gravity and Keeping Mum were Poetry Book Society Recommendations. Gwyneth Lewis composed the words on the front of the new Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff, opened in 2004. She lives in Cardiff.