Published by Elliott & Thompson
Publication date – 17 June 2021
Source – review copy
The world changed in 2020. Gradually at first, then quickly and irreversibly, the patterns by which we once lived altered completely.
The Heeding paints a picture of a year caught in the grip of history, yet filled with revelatory perspectives close at hand: a sparrowhawk hunting in a back street; the moon over a town with a loved-one’s hand held tight; butterflies massing in a high-summer yard – the everyday wonders and memories that shape a life and help us recall our own.
Across four seasons and thirty-five luminous poems and illustrations, Rob Cowen and Nick Hayes lead us on a journey that takes its markers and signs from nature and a world filled with fear and pain but beauty and wonder too. Collecting birds, animals, trees and people together, The Heeding is a profound meditation to a time no-one will forget.
Heed: verb – to mind, regard, take notice of; to pay attention, to care; to guard, to protect.
Noun – paying particular notice or attention.
Written during lockdown, there are some poems that reflect on loneliness and isolation but others which are more joyful, where the beauty in nature is re-discovered and where the natural world and our world seem to come closer together.
There are poems about human heartbreak, such as the poem Dennis, about spotting nature in the most man made of places in Motorway Hawk and inevitably about self-isolation.
The poems cover twelve months of lockdown. Some are introspective, other re-examine the beauty of the natural world, the quiet now the background noises of human life had dimmed, reassessing our surroundings now we had the time to stop and listen.
The poems bring with them a range of emotions, from sadness to reflection. As with most collections of poetry there were some which made more of an impact with me than others. Favourites included Noises Off, which looks at the world without the noise of people bustling, Solidarity on a Saturday Night, a short verse in which sparkling lights bring comfort and draw neighbours closer together. Last Breaths is a moving tribute to nurses and the end of a life, ensuring a dying man isn’t alone and the ode to the little bird The Sparrows struck me so much I had to read it twice in succession.
The illustrations are striking, monochrome images that perhaps seem all the more colourful because of it. They reflect the poems, imagery brought to life for the reader to see and to connect with.
This is a slim volume. It is one that can be kept close at hand for a moment’s contemplation and is one I will return to in future.
There are many beautiful poems and concepts imagined in The Heeding. It embodies what many people will have felt during lockdown written with one person’s words. It reminds us to heed, to take notice of the world around us, to listen to the warnings the planet is giving us and to acknowledge that the people around us are all experiencing the same world in different ways.