In this breath-takingly beautiful debut collection, Elisabeth Hewer displays a sense of lyricism and astuteness that make her poetry sing.
“Rebellion sits well on you
like a red coat
or the gilt gold burnish of youth”
Collecting together sixty poems, Wishing For Birds covers topics that range from the most personal and individual to the national and social, displaying in the process Hewer’s keen grasp of how to introduce and weave (at times, unusual) imagery into the “narrative” of her poems. Some of her poems look outwards, to the world around her, others look inwards, and others look back to the past. Some poems span a mere couple of lines, some are longer, but all are penned in a distinct voice which encapsulates Hewer’s spirit – the girl who (it seems) wishes for birds.
Themes such as wanderlust, longing, and self-doubt are all underpinned by the poet’s appreciation of mythology and classicism, heroism and mythmaking. In the wrong hands, such lofty cultural touchstones could seem elitist and divisive but the way in which Hewer interweaves these into her poetic voice instead aids her expression of essentially universal concerns, proving them to be accessible and, above all, peculiarly relatable.
“God should have made girls lethal
when he made monsters of men.”
On a more individual level, I have read snippets of Hewer’s poetry for some years and, as a follower of hers on Tumblr, I’ve always been impressed by her mastery of the English language; to see her poetry finally collected into a wonderfully packaged poetry collection is a delight. It was a delight to see that the threads of poems and sentiments I’d seen briefly expressed on Tumblr have now been fully fleshed out into poetry that I adored – for example, I loved ‘The Boy I Loved Left Me for a Revolution’ which I will forever associate (rightly or wrongly) with Enjolras and Grantaire of Les Misérables. (Perhaps that is merely the fangirl in me though?)
“If I could have been anything
why am I this?”
Nevertheless, I also find Hewer’s poetry achingly relatable in a way that makes me glad to know a feeling is shared by others but also sad that others share the same feeling, of unrequited love or of loss or other, at their basic level, essentially human themes. There’s a beauty and a pain in that and, yes, perhaps that sounds a little airy-fairy but, hey, sometimes life (and poetry) can be just a little bit philosophical and airy-fairy. And, sometimes, there is an immensely cathartic value in elevating the most everyday of feelings into a polished, poetic form; likewise, seeing such relatable feelings of self-doubt vocalised so beautifully in Hewer’s writing is both terrible and beautiful all at once. For a debut, Wishing for Birds already feels accomplished, eloquent, and intimate, ultimately, an insightful collection of poetry that is asking to be relished.
“You’re a defiant act
of creation. You’re a whole
solar system pretending to be