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Owen Sheers

(b. 1974)

"Finely wrought verse that is tough, but also lyrical. A distinctive new voice" - Neil Rollinson

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These poems come from a special recording for the Poetry Archive:

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  • Interview with Owen Sheers
    In this revealing interview Owen Sheers, one of the UK's most successful younger writers, talks about the influence of his Welsh heritage on his writing, from the landscape to the lives of the small town boys he grew up with.
    View all interviews

Select bibliography

  • The Blue Book, Poetry Wales Press 2000
  • Poetry in Performance Volume 1 (CD), 57 Productions 2002
  • The Dust Diaries, Faber and Faber 2004
  • Skirrid Hill, Poetry Wales Press 2005
  • Owen Sheers Reading from his poems, The Poetry Archive 2006
  • Resistance, Faber and Faber 2007
  • White Ravens, Seren 2009
  • Poet's Guide to BritainPenguin Books Ltd, 2009
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

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