Review of Peninsula, Selected Poems by Trevor Hewett
These are poems about the magic of nature, or more specifically about places. In fact just about every poem is subtitled with a setting, mostly rivers or locations in and around Cornwall. And Hewitt does well to get across not only the look of these places but the feel of them.
The natural world is a source of solace, of contentment and enlightenment for us, maybe even salvation, but we have to go looking for it. In Valley (Bodmin Moor) the experience of nature almost converts the writer into a believer. He is saying that these are some of the places where we can find an escape from the unsatisfying rat-race. We have lost touch with our roots and need to get back to the garden, and in Light Years (River Camel), Hewett despairs that we might never get back.
…and you wonder how
we got this way
and whether any notion of content
we may have had
is now as distant and receding
as the galaxies above.
These are not original ideas or themes by any means. However there is a surprising depth in these seemingly common images of nature. I found Gulls (Widemouth Bay, Cornwall) quite moving, although it is a short poem about the way these birds face into the storm.
Most of the poems reflect the magic of nature, but together the images build a detailed picture with nuances. There is also the powerful, indifferent, cruel side of the natural world, but Hewett finds the life-sustaining aspect even of this. I particularly enjoyed the way throughout the book he made an entity out of nothing, of turning silence into a magical force. One poem ends with the line ‘The silence swells.’
A book purely about landscapes would be dull, and Hewett breaks it up with a few pieces about people or events. Miro (Padstow) tells of a refugee from war, who finds a fairly bleak suburban life to be paradise compared to the horrors from whence he fled.
Hewett makes good use of alliteration in some poems, using that very English way of filling lines with contrasting consonants. In Swannery (Abbotsbury, Dorset) he reminded me of Gerard Manley Hopkins. And this poem is written to a strict meter and rhyme structure, although the book is mainly free verse.
The poem Fisherman (Looe River, Cornwall), sums up the themes that run throughout the book. Nature is profound and beautiful, it is the source of our wisdom. But the last line ‘its unbearable beauty’ unsettles us while we’re enjoying the comforting idea that nature has all the answers. It implies that the communing experience is not all easy.
This is Trevor Hewett’s third collection of poems. On the basis of this one I think the others would be well worth a read.
Trevor Hewett’s book is available from www.independencejones.com
[Clark Gormley is a writer/ poet/ singer. He has been performing his work at Poetry at the Pub in Newcastle for several years. His poems have been published in the Poetry at the Pub Annual Anthologies and a selection of his work in the book, 'Turn of Phrase'. He has also been published in the University of Newcastle magazine Opus, Heist magazine and SKiVE magazine online].