Owen Sheers’ poetry is being studied increasingly at GCSE and A-level. In his poetry, he explores themes of divorce, separation and continuing cycles; the breakdown of society and relationships are depicted repeatedly; and the value of heritage, nature and family are all evident.
Sheers grew up in Abergavenny, Wales, and his love for his home nation is evident in much of his poetry. His depictions of the strength of the natural world and his connections to it pervade Skirrid Hill – an unsurprising discovery considering the title of the collection. Indeed, nature is consistently presented as fragile but enduring, abused but powerful, omnipresent but disregarded. Man’s violence towards nature is reflected in the violence of human behaviour and his aggressive treatment of women throughout the collection. All creating a powerful feeling of self-destruction and cruelty. The society which Sheers depicts is paradoxical, damaged and damaging; however, at the same time it is full of love, appreciation and hope.
Indeed, personal experiences form much of the inspiration to this collection. Whether it is references and descriptions of his family and home, reflections on his own feelings and experiences or depictions of his own intimate relationships in breakdown, Skirrid Hill could be considered autobiographical in many senses.
Nonetheless, the collection is not exempt from comments and reflections on the world at large. Sheers presents us with a view of humanity which also invites us to examine ourselves and our relationships. Globalised culture, war and man’s destructive power are all rooted at the heart of his poetry.
Indeed, his world view is both bitter and sweet: it is overflowing with the love of family, tradition, legacy and nature, while being doomed to an inevitable cycle of failure and endings. On completeing a reading, you will be forgiven for being perplexed by the complexity and contradictory presentations of our world. But, I think that is what makes it so compelling. Afterall, life itself is all of those things; Skirrid Hill captures that beautifully.
Misogyny, marxism and elements of romanticism can be found with exploration and analysis. Our Skirrid Hill poetry analysis pages (see the drop down menu for individual poems) are a good place to start, as is