One of the privileges of reviewing books is that now and again a book comes along that genuinely speaks to you personally, says what you want to say, and in this past year of being (mostly) under lockdown then a book such as The Heeding will speak to many other people also.
The Heeding, a collection of poems by Rob Cowen, author of Common Ground and writer and wonderfully illustrated by Nick Hayes, author of The Book of Trespass, that reflect upon this past year; a year of lockdown, of protest, personal sorrows and new beginnings for many. It would be safe to say that 2020-2021 will remain as a period many will remember for various reasons, and the poetry in The Heeding is the author and artist’s perspective on this time.
Spanning not just the past year, but also past and personal account of Cowen’s youth and of his parents’ interest in nature, which helped develop his interest in the natural world we’re taken through a remembrance which leads to the present day, along with observations and revelations which intertwine the rich tapestry of The Heeding.
Along with many of the personal perspectives that related to me personally, the pieces that particularly rung out with me are the ones which relayed the aspects of loneliness during this time, trying to make relationships, or even basic conversation, with anyone who feels accessible, mostly shop workers, or in this case a pharmacist, and also the people who spread falsehoods around the vaccination programme. Apart from being the Editor of The Pilgrim, I have also been working full-time at the local vaccination centre, and I have witnessed these figures regularly, all claiming to have done some ‘research’ via whatever latest online video and social media groups who spread wild rumour and conjecture to gain I don’t know what! Yet, reading these particular verses helped me feel that we work in these centres are not on our own, we know we’re not but sometimes it requires a certain someone saying a certain line to make the whole situation sink in.
One of the main of The Heeding is that of observation, and the observations by Rob Cowen are enhanced by the beauty and simplicity of the verses within, and it’s this simplicity and honesty that makes these verses shine, accompanied with Nick Hayes’ superb artwork for each poem, The Heeding speaks for the age in which we live.
- The Heeding by Rob Cowen and Nick Hayes is published by Elliott and Thompson Books (£12.99). To order a copy go to www.eandtbooks.com
Founder and Editor of Pilgrim House, currently undertaking a research degree at Bangor University and working on a book on Folklore and early Welsh Christianity. Tom’s other work on music, poetry, health along other writings and images can be found at tomasstanger.com