Notre Dame’s English Department once again secured a visit from novelist, poet and playwright Owen Sheers. On Thursday 5 December, lower and upper sixth A level English students were treated to a 45-minute recital from Mr Sheers, followed by a question and answer session.
Mr Sheers is a multi-award winning author, who has recently published two film-poems, including To Provide All People, which marked the 70th anniversary of the inauguration of the NHS. Mr Sheers read from this during his visit, as well as choosing a selection of poems from Skirrid Hill. These would have been very familiar to his audience, as Skirrid Hill - Mr Sheers’s second collection of poetry – is a set text on the A level English Literature syllabus. Mr Sheers read Border Country, Mametz Wood, Winter Swans, Late Spring and Under the Superstition Mountains.
Speaking about the collection, Mr Sheers said that he’d enjoyed choosing the order of the poems, with half of them reflecting on his early life in Wales, and the other half looking outward. He talked about the theme of separation prevalent in this work: the separation of childhood from adulthood, and of mankind from nature. In 2005, when the collection was published, Mr Sheers was already writing about climate change. This is a subject he remains passionate about, and the last piece he read was a poem to his daughter in the womb, first written for the Writers’ Marathon.
Students then had the chance to ask Mr Sheers about his work. Their questions focused on his poems about nature, and why he chose to move into other forms of writing. He said that a broad canvas allows a writer to explore ideas and issues in a variety of forms, and that not all topics are suitable material for the medium of poetry.
He certainly gave our students a lot to consider, and we’d like to heartily thank Mr Sheers for giving up his time.
All photographs were taken by English student Gabriel Bowden.