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Thinking with Trees

UK Publisher: Carcanet Press

Winner of the Poetry Category OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature 2022

An Irish Times Best Poetry Books of 2021

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 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

‘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? These poems are beautiful and gentle, but the questions they raise are difficult and important.’Kei Miller

‘[A] remarkable debut poetry collection […] Gently, beautifully, unsettlingly about race, nature, naming, access, green-ness…and, yes, trees & forests. This is going to be a book I return to, teach with, learn from.’Robert Macfarlane

‘In these quietly subversive lyrics, expectations are undone, of ecologies, of people, of poems.’Rachael Allen

‘Allen-Paisant has penned a debut that may be years ahead of its time.’ – Anthony Anaxagorou

‘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

‘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

Jason Allen-Paisant is a Jamaican writer and academic who works as an associate professor of Critical Theory and Creative Writing...