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The Little Hours: New and Selected Poems

Hilary Llewellyn-Williams
Publication Date: 
Friday, July 29, 2022
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Hilary Llewellyn-Williams is one of the most renowned poets of her generation in Wales. The Little Hours: New and Selected Poems features poems from her earliest as well as her latest work.

Fully immersed in the natural world, the ‘Tree Calendar’ poems are composed in a richly pagan context: cycles of nature as reflected in the seasons which “reaffirm a mystical link between trees and language”. ‘Book of Shadows’, Llewellyn-Williams’ sequence on Renaissance monk/magician Giordano Bruno, is similarly invested in the mystical and in history, and in the heretical, the subverting or challenging of societal norms.

In ‘Animaculture’ and ‘Greenland’ her work assumes a darker tone, inspired by personal experience: family, dreams and childhood memories. She explores the natural world, the environment, the condition of women and the mysterious interface between nature and spirituality.

This exploration of darker themes continues in ‘The Little Hours’, a new sequence arranged according to the traditional monastic hours. Llewellyn-Williams continues to hone her lyrical skill with poems about domestic life, grief and loss, including a sequence written in memory of her late husband.

It is the primacy of physical place, the environment, which informs her startling and vivid imagery. Llewellyn-Williams is one of the earliest environmental poets; her response to nature is always profound, passionate and keenly observed, from immersion in the landscape to the particularity of feeding a bat.

This new volume will remind admirers of Llewellyn-Williams’s many strengths and beauties and will win a new generation of readers.


Hilary Llewelyn-Williams reads ‘Considering the World’:



Review by Zoe Kramer, Wales Arts Review

Monday, January 16, 2023

The Little Hours is Hilary Llewellyn-Williams’ return to poetry after an almost twenty-year break following her last collection, Greenland. The new collection features a selection of poems from her previous works alongside several new additions. While the poems simultaneously explore the vast landscapes of the natural world and the intricacies of a personal and internal world, they all share Llewellyn-Williams’ signature descriptive ease and graceful cadence.

The collection opens with selections from Tree Calendar. Llewellyn-Williams welcomes us into her home and introduces us to an ancient Welsh and Irish way of telling time, where different types of trees mark the year’s progress. Rather than dotting the background or providing scenery, each tree has its own intricate character, observed in close and careful detail. This speciation reflects the passage of time and notes how those observations predate the standardized calendar that the reader may take for granted.

The poems taken from Book of Shadows draw upon a stranger and darker kind of beauty that often hides from sight. A bat stirs in a box; an explorer lies frozen underneath the ice, and the wind makes music in a spider web. There is magic at play, a powerful alchemy in the way one thing transmutes into another, as frightening as it is wonderful. There’s a direct acknowledgement of this magic in the poem ‘Alchemy’:

Only darkness permits mixing

of elements, stirring of essences


in secret, combing dark and bright

into new patterns while we sleep; so dawn


finds us transformed, shifted. Star

particles link us with trees,


dolphins and stones, travel through us

Interconnectedness lies at the core of Llewellyn-Williams’ work. Most evident in the poems from Animaculture, where disparate elements of nature (such as the moon, dandelions, and the sea) all follow the same harmonies, which we as humans can also – on occasion – participate in. Equally, in the selections from Greenland, Llewellyn-Williams seems especially interested in interrogating how the relationship between humanity and nature functions in the modern world and how we often look down now, whereas we used to look up.

Where poems from previous collections tend to wander, the new poems have a more established destination: self-assured, rich with meaning and pointed with intention. Here Llewellyn-Williams discusses memory, not in terms of its power to preserve or immortalise a moment but in the way its fundament failures define it:


we all forget: each day

settling into the rhythms of the heart,

the body’s edges closing, comforting,


Until perhaps years later we awake

to doors shuttering softly

inside us, on some dream


immense and true

yet irretrievable,

dissolving even as we reach for it —


in which we almost remembered,

almost knew.


This sense of loss and frustration in the impermanence of memory is also present in the cycle of poems entitled ‘A Long Goodbye’. She ties together writings from her late husband – who suffered from Dementia – using his notes on his condition to illuminate what the experience was like from the inside, preserving the agency and intellect that was still present despite his illness. It captures the desolation, the fogginess and uncertainty but also the surprising moments of connection from this time.

The Little Hours clues us into the importance of those moments that awaken us from the repetitive motions of everyday life, moments of finding patterns, oddities, or magic in the mundane. Unembellished and sincere in style, it nevertheless carries a striking power in its beauty. It is a well-curated portrait of a brilliant and insightful career in poetry.

Review by Mab Jones, Buzz Magazine

Monday, October 31, 2022

Lucid, luminous, languid, the measured, evenly paced poetry of Hilary Llewellyn-Williams takes inspiration and meaning from the year itself, beginning early on with a ‘tree calendar’ sequence that draws upon a pagan view of the world. As a ‘selected’, there are poems from various previously published volumes in The Little Hours, meaning that there’s a multiplicity of moods, a wide range of subjects and themes; but always, throughout, there’s nature, and magic, too, in subjects that consider monks, myth, and meaning, leaning, here and there, towards the mystical.

The poems are liquid and flowing, yet confident and concise. Here’s a poet who’s made friends with their own pen, and it’s an instrument they wield with skill – sometimes, in collections, there is a bit of mess; an experiment that doesn’t quite work; a word you feel is out of place. There’s no such feeling here. It’s as if the works within this weighty volume have been, like sculpture, ‘seen’ and hewed into perfect shape.

Reading The Little Hours felt to me, therefore, like reading something inspired, yet well-earthed – a prayer, a meditation, an invocation. There’s physical vibrancy and astute observation but this rare sense, too. A selected that’s worth picking up and perusing, then, but particularly if you want to immerse into a wondrous world which considers “early saints” alongside wells in woods, herbals and hares, broomsticks and blessings. It’s pretty bewitching stuff all round.

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