A dazzling flight of birds opens this new collection by Gwyneth Lewis, former National Poet of Wales. Rich and allusive in language and sharp in image, but always feather-light in touch, this tightly-structured first sequence is followed by three others, each with its own, distinct theme but borrowing and transforming earlier ideas and images. The elusive nature of birds and the litany of their suggestive names are echoed in the following sections, whether in mysterious journeys to far-flung locations or in the precise, heavily freighted and equally exotic vocabulary of the domestic crafts of patchwork and knitting, traditionally passed down the family from woman to woman. Intricate as quilts or knitted garments in their patterning of thread, colour and texture, these poems celebrate the plurality which creates its own unity, the paradoxical combination of anarchy and discipline, and the fruitful ambiguity of words with multiple meanings and resonances.
Into this poetic fabric Lewis weaves related threads from her earlier work, especially her recent Hospital Odyssey with its imagery drawn from sea-voyage and microbiology, thus creating continuity. Love, pain, loss, and the ease with which the relay of generations can be broken, again form a strong thematic undercurrent throughout this latest volume. Appealing to all the senses, Sparrow Tree is a memorable and utterly satisfying collection by a consummate poet.
'Adventitious rhyming is the natural ally of Lewis's remarkably resourceful wit and her gift for metamorphic imagination .... [this] confirms Gwyneth Lewis's reputation as one of the most exhilaratingly gifted poets of her generation.'
'Such exuberant invention - the range of reference is so wide, we are intoxicated by it.'
'Since winning the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival Prize in 1995, Gwyneth Lewis (Wales's first National Poet) has steadily gained recognition from critics as one of the most gifted writers of her generation… These poems work especially well if read aloud, when the lovely half-rhymes and alliteration are fully audible… The impression is of someone deeply involved in the process of making.'