Sleepwalk on the Severn came from a month English poet Alice Oswald spent on the Severn, the second longest river in the UK, and it is the most moonstruck thing I have ever read. Oswald follows the phases of the moon in five parts: new, half, full, no moon, and moon reborn, demonstrating if nothing else that the moon is a changable mistress, and master of us all. The landscape of the poems is pulled between moon and water, tricksy and ghosted, a place where the dead rise up to converse with the living and every shadow and shape is filled with fast-moving melancholy.
An early work from the acclaimed poet of Memorial and Falling Awake, appearing for the first time in the United States.
A Sleepwalk on the Severn is a reflective, book-length poem in several registers, using dramatic dialogue. Ghostly, meditative, and characterized by Alice Oswald’s signature sensitivity to nature, the poem chronicles a night on the Severn Estuary as the moonrise travels through its five stages: new moon, half moon, full moon, no moon, and moon reborn.
About the Author
Alice Oswald is the author of eight books of poetry. Elected as the University of Oxford Professor of Poetry in 2019, she lives in Bristol, United Kingdom.
[Oswald is] a perpetual inspiration. — James Wood - The New Yorker
[Oswald’s work] leaves me shaken and speechless. — Edward Hirsch
Oswald joins Ciaran Carson, Iain Sinclair, Hughes and ultimately Joyce himself as one of the great celebrants of the genius loci, the spirit of place, or what the Irish call dinnseanchas, lovingly elaborated topographical lore.… Oswald has soul in riverfuls. — Guardian
Alice Oswald is making a new kind of poetry. There is nothing fancy about it—she is doing the job, simple and enormous, of reworking the model for the twenty-first century. — Jeanette Winterson
Alice Oswald’s poems are vivid and distinct, alert and deeply, physically engaged in the natural world. — Poetry Daily
Oswald’s radiant poetry of remembrance will not be readily forgotten. — Independent
A sublime poet of the natural world. — Herald
If there’s any justice in the poetry world, the title [poet laureate] should be offered to this gardener-classicist who is bringing the British landscape to life in poetry again. — Daily Telegraph
You won’t experience the full effect of Alice Oswald’s poetry unless you read her words aloud—she writes with a mind for sounds, syllables, and the patters of speech, informed and inspired by oral storytelling traditions. — Bustle