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Thinking with Trees

Jason Allen-Paisant

Cover of Thinking with Trees by Jason Allen-Paisant
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Categories: 21st Century, BAME, British, Caribbean, First Collections
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Available as:
Paperback (120 pages)
(Pub. Jun 2021)
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(Pub. Jun 2021)
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  • Description
  • Author
  • Awards
  • Reviews
  • Winner of the Poetry Category OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature 2022
    An Irish Times Best Poetry Books of 2021

    A White Review Book of the Year 2021

    Jason Allen-Paisant grew up in a village in central Jamaica. 'Trees were all around,' he writes, 'we often went to the yam ground, my grandmother's cultivation plot. When I think of my childhood, I see myself entering a deep woodland with cedars and logwood all around. [...] The muscular guango trees were like beings among whom we lived.'

    Now he lives in Leeds, near a forest where he goes walking. 'Here, trees represent an alternative space, a refuge from an ultra-consumerist culture...' And even as they help him recover his connections with nature, these poems are inevitably political.

    As Malika Booker writes, 'Allen-Paisant's poetic ruminations deceptively radicalise Wordsworth's pastoral scenic daffodils. The collection racializes contemporary ecological poetics and its power lies in Allen-Paisant's subtle destabilization of the ordinary dog walker's right to space, territory, property and leisure by positioning the colonised Black male body's complicated and unsafe reality in these spaces.'
    Jason Allen-Paisant is from a village called Coffee Grove in Manchester, Jamaica. At present, he’s a lecturer in Caribbean Poetry & Decolonial Thought in the School of English at the University of Leeds, where he’s also the Director of the Institute for Colonial and Postcolonial Studies. He serves on the editorial ... read more
    Awards won by Jason Allen-Paisant Winner, 2022 The Poetry Category OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature
    (Thinking with Trees)
    'Original, masterful, and beautiful ... invites us to think about a perpetual condition of 'marronage' for the Caribbean writer.'

    Bocas 2022 Prize Judges, where Thinking with Trees was shortlisted

    'This is a collection that engages with the fluidity of form and rhythm, the poems spread out on the page like roots and leaves... this is a collection that moves the conversation into something much deeper, much richer, more contemplative and more pressing'

    SK Grout, The Alchemy Spoon

    'As he cuts a radical response to the pastoral in a Leeds forest where dogs are welcomed but black men are suspect, he echoes June Jordan's 40-year-old question, "suppose it was not here in the city but down on the beach/ or far into the woods I wanted to go?"'

    Martina Evans, Irish Times Best Books of the Year 2021

    'Thinking with Trees has a narrative arc - it reads like a walking diary, though not signposted as such or always in order through the seasons.'

    Fiona Moore, The Friday Poem

    'To hear this new sound, one is invited to cross the threshold into something "accidental / so entire so free", away from an exclusive lyric past and beyond the inherited traumas of slave labour. This crossing, the speaker of poems like 'Black Walking' informs us, is not only a physical passage but a leap over the precipice of racial asymmetry.'

    Mantra Mukim, The Poetry Review

    'The power of this expansive, original book is in its attention to the ways in which a sense of leisure, territory and belonging is an implicit, racialised underpinning in the long tradition of nature writing ... Thinking with Trees is an expansive, fracturing, subversive book.'

    Sean Hewitt, The Irish Times

    'A remarkable work... It's a stunning debut collection'

    Richard Price & Sally Price, 'Bookshelf 2021', New West Indian Guide
    'The poet scrupulously decouples nature from any sense of private ownership, opening himself up to more generous, alternative worldviews. This is a bold and impressive debut.'

    David Wheatley, Guardian Review Roundup 

    'Allen-Paisant has penned a debut that may be years ahead of its time.'

    Anthony Anaxagorou

     'Jason Allen-Paisant deftly inscribes his own signature on worlds inner and outer in these gorgeous poems. The future of Caribbean lyric poetry is in great hands'

    Lorna Goodison

      'Jason Allen-Paisant maps a complex and multifaceted internal landscape in these astounding poems. How does the person occupy a poem? How does the poem speak back to a person? How does a poem then speak to the world?... Tough queries on language and personhood are posed through Paisant's extraordinary line and sense of image; every poem seems a painting with their flashes of colour, their broad scope of place, the vivid characters of the people and animals who inhabit them. In these quietly subversive lyrics, expectations are undone, of ecologies, of people, of poems: trees, dogs, thoughts, cells, the daily world here is rendered wholly new.'

    Rachael Allen

    'Allen-Paisant's poetic ruminations deceptively radicalise Wordsworth's pastoral scenic daffodils; here the body is never restful or relaxed due to a lingering unease in these British parks and woodlands. He employs the usual meditative tropes found in nature writing, in order to exploit and amplify the psychological sense of entitlement this relationship with the land denotes. These penetrable lyrical verses and essays deconstruct democratic notions of green space in the British landscape by racialising contemporary ecological poetics. The collection's power lies in Allen-Paisant's subtle destabilization of the ordinary dog walker's right to space, territory, property and leisure by positioning the colonised Black male body's complicated and unsafe reality in these spaces.'

    Malika Booker

    'These observant poems lay their burdens down by the rivers of Babylon and try to sing the Lord's song in a strange land. What might it mean for the black body to experience nature, not as labour, but as leisure? What might it mean to simply walk through a park and observe the birds and the trees? The poems are beautiful and gentle, but the questions they raise are difficult and important.'

    Kei Miller

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