Owen Sheers (b. 1974, Fiji) was chosen as one of the Next Generation Poets and as one of the Independent's top 30 young British writers on the strength of his first book of poetry, The Blue Book. His second, Skirrid Hill, described by The Guardian as a 'beautifully elegiac collection' was published in 2005. He has also written The Dust Diaries, a prose work retracing the steps of a missionary ancestor through Zimbabwe, which won the Welsh Book of the Year Award 2005, a one-man play, Unicorns, almost based on the life of Keith Douglas, and has worked as an actor and television presenter. Sheers is also the recipient of a Gregory Award and the 1999 Vogue Young Writer’s Award.
There are many poems in this reading tinged with a reflective sadness. Some are inspired by deaths in war, in suicide, in illness, even a touching farewell to a horse; others by an awareness of moments of separation, between men and women, parents and children, or childhood and adulthood. Perhaps most powerfully, Sheers elegises a dead friend and empathises with the father in his pair of poems, 'The Hill Fort (Y Gaer)' and 'Y Gaer (The Hill Fort)', the two languages echoing both the border setting of the poems and the two aspects of the father’s grief that send him to the eponymous hill fort, once in fury and once in tranquillity.
But Sheers is no miserablist; other poems whisk us to Oxford Balls, a Fijian village or to the American desert where an elderly community attempt to defy their years. 'Service', the product of a National Poetry Day residency, is a poem that rattles through a hectic day in Heston Blumenthal's kitchen from food preparation to final cigarette. 'Lambing', although it first invites us to see the lamb as "flat and bloody as roadkill", presents literal inspiration, in its first breath, "an electric shock / run across the railings of its ribs."
Drawn to free verse, Sheers claims to be “quite an instinctive writer, I do a lot of it on the ear." His attention to the ear is evident on this reading; The Guardian's praise for the way "the confident use of internal and sprung rhymes produces an easy lyricism, while his rhythms are wonderfully dextrous", is accurate, but Sheers' performance lends a quiet naturalism to these aspects that keeps his subjects and narratives central while still leaving room to reveal their depths.
His recording was made for The Poetry Archive on 16 December 2005 at the Audio Workshop, London, UK and was produced by Richard Carrington.
Owen Sheers's Favourite Poetry Sayings:
"Like a piece of ice on a hot stove, a poem should ride on its own melting"
- Robert Frost
2005 Welsh Book of the Year Award: The Dust Diaries
1999 Eric Gregory Award
1999 Vogue Young Writer’s Award
2006 Somerset Maugham Award Skirrid Hill