Henry David Thoreau wrote of fallen leaves, ‘they teach us how to die’. Seven years in the making, Leaves is a long poem by Matthew Hollis, which holds loss and grief in one hand; new life in the other. It explores the relationship of a father and daughter, set in the perpetual choreography of autumn. What do we say to the young child who has discovered mortality? Here is an elemental cycle, a turning of generations: childhood to parenthood, parent to child, child to parent, a sense of deep time, shedding and passing, rooted in the body, balanced in the five elements of the Chinese tradition of Wu Xing, Fire (火 huǒ), Water (水 shuǐ), Wood (木 mù), Metal (金 jīn), and Earth (土 tǔ). In Leaves, Matthew Hollis intuits and rediscovers a sense of the life force of hope.
Matthew Hollis is the author of Ground Water (Bloodaxe, 2004), shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and the Whitbread Prize for Poetry. Now All Roads Lead to France: the Last Years of Edward Thomas (Faber, 2011; Norton, 2012) won the Costa Biography Award and was Sunday Times Biography of the Year.