Alice Oswald


Alice Oswald is a British poet who became BBC Radio 4’s second Poet-in-Residence in 2017. Her work won the T. S. Eliot Prize in 2002 and the Griffin Poetry Prize in 2017.

Alice has a long association with Desperate Men, contributing new poems and texts to various projects they have worked on. We are thrilled that poems from her collections – Woods etc and Weeds and Wildflowers – will be woven into the Wye Valley River Festival’s events and performances.

If you love poetry then make your way down to the Nelson Garden in Monmouth between 7.30pm and 8.30pm on Saturday 12th May, where some of her poetry will be recited and will also be on display on screen printed banners in the garden. Tucked away behind the busy streets it is an oasis of peace, just the place for some thoughtful words woven together in wonderful poetry.


for J.O. and L.O.

the leaf that now lies being made
in its shell of scale, the hush of things
unseen inside, the heartbeat of dead wood.
the slow through-flow that feeds
a form curled under, hour by hour
the think reissuing starlike shapes
of cells and pores and water-rods
which builds up, which becomes a pressure,
a gradual fleshing out of a longing for light,
a small hand unfolding, feeling about.
into that hand the entire
object of the self being coldly placed,
the provisional, the inexplicable I
in mid-air, meeting the wind and dancing


A Wood Coming into Leaf

From the first to the second

Warily, from the tip to the palm

Third leaf (the blackthorn done)

From the fourth to the fifth and
(Larix, Castanea, Fraxinus, Tilia)

Thaw taps, groping in stumps,
frost like an adder easing away

The sixth to the seventh (plums conceive)
a knobble in a stone within a blossom)

Ushers the next by the thumbs to the next…

A thirty-first, a thirty-second

A greenwood through a blackwood
passes (like the moon’s halves
meet and go behind themselves)

And you and I, quarter-alight, our boots in shadow

Birch, oak, rowan, ash
Chinese-whispering the change


Photo credit: Kate Mount