Roland Mathias Poetry Award (Wales Book of the Year)
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.
'These are poems that gather darkly and peck. They feint and play hazardously with their beaks and sometimes take to wing… These are poems more concerned with the mechanisms of song – both human and avian – than they are with the song itself, and it is this resistance that makes the poems so often mesmerising…What Lewis pulls off…feels like an avian feat: she strikes a ﬁne, improbable balance between gravity and levity. Even as her speaker struggles to access the language, to get the voice right, she gets us off the ground and ungiddily bids us, look’ – Elyse Fenton, New Welsh Review.
‘One of the most exhilaratingly gifted poets of her generation’ – M. Wynn Thomas, Guardian.
‘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
‘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
Gwyneth Lewis reads two poems
Gwyneth Lewis reads two poems from Chaotic Angels: Poems in English (Bloodaxe Books, 2005), 'Welsh Espionage'  and 'Mother Tongue'. This film is from the DVD-book In Person: 30 Poets, filmed by Pamela Robertson-Pearce & edited by Neil Astley (Bloodaxe Books, 2008).