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New Writer 2021: Thomas Stewart


Thomas Stewart headshot

Thomas Stewart is a writer and an English teacher. His debut pamphlet, empire of dirt, published by Red Squirrel Press was a Poetry Book Society selection. His second pamphlet, Based on a true story, will be published in 2022.

He was highly commended in the Verve 2020 Poetry Competition and his poetry was selected for the Best Scottish Poems 2019 anthology and We've Done Nothing Wrong, We've Nothing To Hide, published by Verve Poetry Press, 2020.

Thomas' work has been featured at Poetry Wales, Butcher’s Dog, The Amsterdam Quarterly, And Other Poems, Ink Sweat & Tears, fourteen poems, The Glasgow Review of Books, and The Stockholm Review of Literature, among others. He was a writer in residence at Arteles in Finland. He has a Writing MA from the University of Warwick and a BA in English from the University of South Wales. He was born in Cardiff, Wales and now lives in Edinburgh.

Find him on Twitter(this will open in a new window), Instagram(this will open in a new window) or his website(this will open in a new window).

Writing sample

empire of dirt

I look in the mirror
and see a stranger looking back,
maybe I see my father,
dead and young,
covered in pollen,
never dress him in yellow,
he said
the bees will always come

don't dress me,
paint my skin
in a colour I do not recognise,
paint the answers to how
my desires are
not what they once were,
paint it in dirt
run my rules in muck
they've changed anyway,
throw my limits in the filth,
scrub my face in mud,

send me to the forest
to a dark wood, to a land
of fallen leaves, to a cold cave
where I can scrawl my dreams
in blood and the sap of a tree,
where I'll rub dill into my wounds
and make music only the walls

send me to find a face
to win my body back,
tell me that my body
will no longer lay mute, I remember it
like a child remembers its favourite food:
I know it exists
this body of mine,
where I do not wake to that knock
where I can simply be,
this is surely an existence that can occur,

so let me be
in the woods,
let me scream to the tallest tree
and find a fairy or a fool,
let me fall into that dirt
and smell the soil of my youth,
let me pull the flowers roots
and plant them somewhere on the horizon, let me
tangle daisy-chains, so that I may pluck
each petal and ask if he loved me
or not

this wood is my country,
my mother tongue, my climate,
if my body will no longer speak to me
let me place it in the belly of a tree
and barefoot I will walk on.

Thomas says:

'I think I’m still in the moment of receiving the awardstunned, elated, full of disbelief and wonder. Come to think of it, it’s the same feeling as writing poetry. Honestly, to receive the New Writers Award is an incredible honour, many of the previous recipients are writers I greatly admire, so I am extremely humbled and thankful and excited to venture ahead and write my first collection.'