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Woods River Road by John Sewell


Publication date: March 20th 2021

216 x 140mm, B & W inners, 86pp

ISBN 978-1-911048-47-3

£10.99 (includes p&p)



Woods River Road is wonderfully erotic, an earthy, pagan, vital celebration of sexual love and of the land that, as the poet says, always remembers
“how vast in happiness / love is, how loving grows with every love / we have.”

John Burnside


This is a book of unashamedly sensual poetry.
Never crude, always aware of the ambiguities generated by love and passion, there is throughout the poetry a Lawrencian tenderness and much personal insight.
The natural world is so well observed and recorded that it becomes entwined in a menage a trois with the poet and his lovers…
Edward Thomas meets Verlaine…
This is the kind of love poetry that will endure.

Kevin Bailey in HQ Poetry Magazine (No55&56)

About John Sewell

John Sewell was born in South Yorkshire and educated in Scotland. Unable to choose between studying Art or English, he chose Architecture instead, (winning in his first year the Strathclyde University Poetry Competition and co-producing a pamphlet of Eliot-influenced poems riskily entitled: Babel). After working in an architect’s office in Sheffield, he realised William Carlos Williams meant more to him than Le Corbusier. Thereafter, he combined writing with doctoring buildings for the Peak District National Park… He has two previous collections: The Imbolc Bride (Littlewood Arc) 1992 and Bursting The Clouds (Cape) 1998, and was co-author (with three others) of The Blue Bang Theory (Redbeck) 1997 – a collection of contemporary nature poetry. His poems have appeared in various anthologies, including Cambridge Encyclopaedia of the English Language; Oxford Poetry Books for Juniors; and Poetry Book Society Anthologies. They have also appeared in The Guardian and Observer, as well as magazines such as Poetry Review; Ambit, Rialto and Poetry Ireland Review, and broadcast on radio. He was featured in Poetry Review’s New British Poets II. Prizes include being a finalist in the Arvon International Poetry Competition, winner of the Sheffield Thursday Poetry Competition and three times winner of the York Open Poetry Competition. He has been awarded a Writers Bursary, and Fellowships at Hawthornden Castle, Scotland; Chateau de Lavigny, Switzerland; and the Wurlitzer Foundation, Taos, New Mexico. He was commissioned by East Midlands Arts to write poems to accompany a photographic exhibition ‘Across Country’ – following the line of A52 from Lincolnshire to Derbyshire. He was active for many years with the Arvon Foundation, both on the Council of Management and the Management Committee for Lumb Bank. He currently lives in South Shropshire and is a member of the Border Poets writing group.


For Woods River Road: “These are fine poems about landscape, the weight of the word, the sensuous essence of things, the inevitable making of love. Images are tactile, colourful, a kingfisher glimpsed on on a fishing rod, hawks on their tethers, a midday nightingale.There are touches of sharp wit, of tenderness, of loss, of the complexity of love. Read these poems. Listen to those grasses bending in the wind.” Pauline Stainer

For The Imbolc Bride: “Sewell distills incident into its strongest elements, leaving the impression of an insight etched on steel, something felt and said with vivid finality. He’s the real thing.” Anne Stevenson

“He has an instinctive ability to use language in a very musical and original way.” Gillian Clarke

“The language is original and strong. Yet his voice is tender. John Sewell writes beautifully. I shall read this collection again and again.” Iron Review

“The Imbolc Bride is wonderfully fresh. The invocation of Celtic winter festivals lends this volume a dark resonance.” Time Out

For Bursting The Clouds: “Bursting The Clouds represents a bold development of the talent shown in Sewell’s promising and very different first book.” Sunday Times

“A gifted observer of the natural world.” Carol Rumens (Independent)

“John Sewell knows how to ambush his readers. This funny, seductive, secretive little poem [The Response] is one of the gems of Bursting The Clouds. The poems explore marriage, lust, the end of marriage and a cold pastoral that was parallel to them and will outlive them.” Helen Dunmore (Observer)

“I consider him to be a poet of great integrity, lyrical power and profundity.” Robin Robertson


The first poem in Wood River Road:


I carried the mirror, an empty oblong of sky
from bedroom to wood – stood it
a tremouring pool of green, against a tree:

shyly hugging your breasts
step from the leaves
into the leaves.


I heard a sigh and went in deeper,
my tablespoon of blue milk
on the mossy bole:

you opened as a sunlit clearing
ramages of longings
poured out of me like leaves.


Such altering sweetness from the gorse
one breath and we couldn’t rest
till we found the covert:

our single stripe of sunlight
on its shadows: the scent we make there
crazing grass stems, inciting leaves.


The lettered trunk a work-mate
for my feet, the sloping bank
yeasty with ferns backs you as keenly

slides home the hasp:
a tiny gasp
fire-red as a bramble leaf.


Later, with much effort
we got to our feet, walked
out of the wood

stared into each other’s face
brushed each other’s hair
of leaves.



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