Gardens, grotesqueries, historical landscapes, destruction and darkness, all collide in Tony Williams’ explosive new collection
Tony Williams is roaming the earth. The poems in Hawthorn City record the tales we tell ourselves to make a home in the lives we find ourselves living. They are songs to family, to stone and outlawry and refusal, and to the fevered memory which reaches back beyond birth, past early modern witches and shepherds’ songs, past medieval chronicles and Icelandic sagas, to the ancient city-states, homely and hellish, which part of the modern imagination still inhabits. Travelling darker and deeper towards the state which is both origin and grave, this grotesque comedy of a book intensifies into a bizarre, baroque vision of the world and our place in it.
‘Tony Williams’s Hawthorn City is also a revelation. This powerful collection, Williams’s fourth, takes the reader to a world of Medieval chroniclers, old farmers’ songs, early modern witches, and Icelandic sagas, where the ordinary mingles with the extraordinary.
The poet’s use of tightly metered verse and a language both rich and imaginative takes the reader to strange and expansive landscapes [. . .] Williams’s poetic world reminds me of Borges's intellectual labyrinths and ancient libraries. His erudition is never dense or academic but, rather, always unusual, an adventure of the spirit from which the reader can always leave surprised and enriched.’ —Leo Boix, Magma Poetry
‘Williams is also an original, placing the city and landscapes of Sheffield and Derbyshire at the centre of a universe where mundane observation crosses into the visionary, generating a strange blend of dry, scabrous humour and awed love of place.’ —Sean O’Brien, Poetry Review
‘Williams is ever alert to the wildness and decay that are waiting to rush back in and reclaim what is rightfully theirs.’ —Frances Leviston, The Guardian
‘With virtuosity and brio, the poems blend the English lyric tradition with the styles of European and, in particular, German writers from Goethe to Gottfried Benn, developing a decorative yet tightly metered free verse as capable of witty evocation of complicated landscapes as of subtle, plainspoken pathos.’ —Ben Wilkinson, Times Literary Supplement
‘By layering cultural references and registers like sediment, a deep, imaginative landscape appears, industrial and feudal, suburban and gone to seed, where doggers and spliffs and curates and cribbage-games meet.’ —Frances Leviston, The Guardian
‘A voice with a unique lyric heft, its subtle praise-making poised between pity and dislocation.’ —W.N. Herbert
‘Williams’s second full collection shows him to be a poet of great resourcefulness, as unimpressed by the thin gruel of the merely fashionable as by the obvious and tried and tested. Part of his task, rarely stated but pursued with great energy and invention, is to affirm that the aesthetic and the political form a unified field. All power to his elbow.’ —Sean O’Brien, The Guardian