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Return by Minor Road

Return by Minor Road

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In her mid-20s, Heidi Williamson was part of a Scottish community that suffered an inconceivable tragedy, the Dunblane Primary School shooting. Those years living in the town form the focus of her third poetry collection.

Through rivers, rain, wildlife and landscape, Williamson revisits where ‘the occasional endures’ and discovers the healing properties of a beloved place:

          'These small movements
          towards the bracken
          are to be reckoned with.'

‘… I’d like to mention one book which moved me to tears, Return by Minor Road, by Heidi Williamson: a stunning and heart-breaking look at the Dunblane massacre, the way grief can infuse a place, and what the aftermath (in the literal sense of the beginnings of a new growth) of such an event feels like in such a close-knit community.’ – Andrew McMillan, Outspoken (Books of the Year 2020)

‘Spared direct personal bereavement, unlike some of her friends, she explores various ways of making poems which acknowledge the difficult balance of what might be called distanced witness. Her chosen style is usually oblique; she is often “watching the past” in the revisited landscape with its rivers and culverts, its hares and cormorants… The poems in Return By Minor Road are restrained, but, over the whole volume, their rain-like effect is cumulatively powerful.' - Carol Rumens, Poem of the Week, The Guardian

‘Heidi Williamson’s third collection, Return by Minor Road, is less a revisiting of the Dunblane Primary School shooting, than a sensitive and subtle reflection on the culverts and rivers within the human body that carry the past. Through a lexicon that is coloured by Scottish inflections… and a sense of place etched through the vocabulary of return… Williamson weaves her delicate sonata of loss, upheaval and natural resilience.’ - Abigail Ardelle Zammit, London Grip

'Beautifully crafted and understated, yet deeply moving, Return by Minor Road — Heidi Williamson’s third poetry collection — reflects on trauma, survival and hope, as it makes connections between natural landscape, wildlife and tragedy... Imbued with music, history is evoked through the complex layers of feeling and memories that cannot be fully reconciled or remedied. In this pandemic time, the reader will find sympathy and strength in the depth of these poems, which so powerfully capture grief, survival and courage.' - Jennifer Wong, Ambit

‘Award-winning poet and creative writing tutor Heidi Williamson was born in Norfolk, but lived and studied in Scotland for a decade. Her third collection of poems, Return by Minor Road, revisits her time there, and reads like a lyrical book of remembrance, recalling the Dunblane tragedy and its aftermath, while exploring the healing properties of the landscape.’ – The Simple Things Magazine

‘… Williamson revisits the scene of the tragedy and reflects upon it in a series of powerful and moving poems… Many of us, myself included, will never forget Dunblane. This is a fitting tribute to those whose lives were tragically cut short at such a tender age.’ – Neil Leadbeater, Write Out Loud [on Return by Minor Road]

'Poems flow from the recall of everyday circumstances, difficult weather and natural beauty. Always you hear the story, its tragic aftermath and continuing presence like a cathedral bell tolling across Dunblane. A superb collection, subtle, moving and honest, and a fine memorial.' - David Harmer, Orbis [on Return by Minor Road]

‘This is a book of remembrance, of trauma and grief, but also one of hope, healing and consolation… Return by Minor Road feels like a major achievement. Brilliantly constructed, each poem feels complete in itself, while contributing to a greater whole… A work of vivid phrase-making and lyrical empathy, it is by turns, a celebration of our spirit, a forensic examination of the soul, and a warning of the darkness that lives at the edges of our lives.’ – Christopher James

'Love of the natural world and love of family – especially youth – resonates through this quietly convincing collection which manages to take on its daunting subject matter and emerge, not victorious of course, but having argued on behalf of resilience, on the side of hope.' - Martyn Crucefix [on Return by Minor Road]

'Through poems of meticulous clarity and precision, Williamson charts the lives and landscapes of a tragedy and its aftermath. These are poems which honestly and respectfully explore the two worlds of humanity: the world we inhabit, its towns, fields and rivers; and, equally importantly, the emotional and spiritual context - the world which inhabits us. What binds the two together? In this powerful and moving collection, it is surely love.' – John Glenday on Return by Minor Road

‘Heidi Williamson’s Return by Minor Road is a wonder. Almost unbearably moving at times, these poems evoke the elemental nature of memory, our animal striving for survival, and the horror that human beings so often inflict upon each other. In three sections, the haunting of trauma, the returning in memory, and the return in actuality to honour the dead, Williamson reminds us that our most sacred responsibility is to remember.’ – Dan O'Brien

‘A subtle, moving collection that embraces and explores the landscape cut into the heart. With profound moments and a cumulative power, the collection encapsulates how place and the past are a continuing emotional reality.’ – Esther Morgan on Return by Minor Road

‘Williamson has achieved an impressively finely-tuned response to the Dunblane massacre. Adventurous, intriguing, with a sense of being compelled to return, of the sequence taking its own quiet path. A very valuable book indeed.’ – Moniza Alvi on Return by Minor Road

'This collection is rooted in the 1996 Dunblane school shootings when the poet was a young member of the community...A salutary classroom experience would be to read this collection alongside the bald facts given in Wikipedia, perfectly illustrating the difference between cold objectivity and what humanity - and artistry - can add: a practical and vivid answer to the question 'what is poetry for?'' - Frank Startup, The School Librarian

'What I love most about this poem is what it doesn’t say. Although there is great clarity in the language – the syntax is sure and measured, the diction restrained – there is at the heart of the poem a mystery... The lines in their subtle directness hint and suggest but ultimately do not explain. In this way the poem becomes larger than the single event it appears to be describing and touches on, and takes in, other moments in our history.' - Greta Stoddart, Judge, Plough International Poetry Prize, on the winning poem 'With a rootless lily held in front of him’ from Return by Minor Road