Our Isles: A Book of Poems by Angus D Birditt and Lilly Hedley

I have never really considered myself a bookworm. I struggled to get into books when I was a child, always preferring to be doing something else. To be honest it was actually a lot to do with my eyesight/tracking difficulties which made it quite uncomfortable to read. I didn’t understand what it was to get hooked in by a storyline until I read the Harry Potter books and then I couldn’t put them down. Like a lot of things though, reading took a back seat for a while in my adult life while I navigated university course readings lists, starting out in the world of work and generally focusing on getting from one day to the next. I started reading regularly again a few years ago as I found myself compiling lists of things I wanted to read or that had been recommended to me, and I set myself a reading goal. I kept it low so that it felt achievable and I’ve set one every year since. Last year I read 34 books, so perhaps I need to reconsider my stance on being a bookworm.

Reading is now a really important part of my life and how I continue to learn and grow as a person. Reading a book will never fail to teach you something or give you a new perspective or insight. It doesn’t have to be a non-fiction or “self help” book for it to expand your thinking. Every author weaves their perspective and experiences into their characters or story-lines, or in the case of this book, into their poetry.

Our Isles is a collection of poems by Angus D Birditt each featuring a typically rural trade or tradition and an individual who continues that trade today. Both Angus and Lilly have travelled around the British Isles immersing themselves in the lives and practices of these people to discover how they go about their day to day. The poems reflect that by not just describing the art or trade, but what the practitioners are like as people, when they might wake up in the morning, how they are living and breathing what they are passionate about and other nuances of their character. As someone who loves cooking, especially with foraged wild food, and also who is learning pottery, The Cook, The Potter and The Forager were some of my favourite poems to read. I also really enjoyed reading about completely different trades that I rarely interface with like The Farrier, The Shepherd and The Salt Harvester.

Throughout the collection, each poem is accompanied by a beautiful lino print illustration by Lilly Hedley. I love the style of Lilly’s work and its rustic feel aligns so perfectly with the subject of the poems. The monochromatic design allows the book to traverse both rustic and modern aesthetics, although the countryside has so much colour for me that perhaps it is missing that piece of the picture. That being said, it’s a stunning, visually striking book.

I love that this book isn’t stuffy. The poems are enjoyable for anyone who is interested in getting an insight into these British traditions. It’s a great book for dipping in and out of, perhaps reading a poem every day while you have ten minutes to spare over a cuppa while you dream yourself away to a countryside haven. I’d recommend this book to anyone who would value this charming insight into rural life and a celebration of what we should be appreciating and protecting.

Click here for more information or to buy the book: Our Isles: Poems celebrating the art of rural trades and traditions.

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