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Sheers, Owen 1974-

SHEERS, Owen 1974-

PERSONAL:

Born 1974, in Suva, Fiji. Education: Attended New College, Oxford (English); attended University of East Anglia (creative writing and poetry). Hobbies and other interests: Rugby, pentathlon, running.

ADDRESSES:

Agent—c/o Author mail, Houghton Mifflin Company, Trade Division, Eighth Floor, 222 Berkeley St., Boston, MA 02116-3764. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Author, researcher, and actor. Wordsworth Trust, Grasmere, Cumbria, England, writer-in-residence. Actor in theatrical productions, including as Wilfred Owen in Not about Heroes, produced at Classic Theatre, 2002.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Eric Gregory Award for promising British poets under thirty, British Society of Authors, 1999; shortlisted for Welsh Book of the Year, and for Forward Prize for best first collection, Forward Arts Foundation, both 2001, both for The Blue Book.

WRITINGS:

The Blue Book (poetry), Seren (Bridgend, Wales), 2000.

The Dust Diaries: Seeking the African Legacy of Arthur Cripps (novel), Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2004.

SIDELIGHTS:

Owen Sheers was born in Suva, Fiji, and raised in London and Abergavenny, South Wales. He began writing poetry at a young age, winning a local agricultural show poetry competition when he was ten. While reading English at Oxford University's New College, he temporarily ceased to write under the pressures of his academic schedule, but a master class with Paul Muldoon renewed his interest and he went on to join the poetry division of the creative writing program at the University of East Anglia, where he worked under future British poet laureate Andrew Motion.

Sheers's volume of poetry The Blue Book was shortlisted for both the Welsh Book of the Year honor and the Forward Prize for best first collection in 2001. The poems in this volume draw on a wide range of experiences from Sheers's life, including his return to his birthplace in Fiji to find the woman who buried his umbilical cord under a coconut tree, the Welsh farms and the schools of his childhood, and the realities of coming of age. In a piece for Tregolwyn Book Reviews, contributor Deborah Fisher wrote that "Sheers displays, throughout, a sensitivity most men of his age keep well under wraps." Fisher went on to comment regarding one poem, "My Grandmother's Garden," that the author "shows his talent at its peak. Here he places himself in a situation where human life, except his own, is entirely absent, and in its absence all the more poignant."

Poetry is not Sheers's only writing endeavor. The Dust Diaries: Seeking the African Legacy of Arthur Cripps combines truth, fiction, and travelogue to tell the story of Sheers's great-great uncle, a poet and Anglican missionary who traveled to South Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in 1900 and became an advocate for the Africans in the face of colonial exploitation. Sheers bases his novel on diaries and letters, as well as on his own trip to Zimbabwe in search of people who knew his relative. Where answers were otherwise not readily available, Sheers used his imagination to fill in the rest of the story. Helena Drysdale, reviewing the book for New Statesman, maintained that the mix of fact and fiction does not work, writing that "instead of enlivening Cripps, these imaginings mean we are forever wondering what is fact and what is not.… If this was either a novel or a travel book, we could trust the author, and relax and enjoy what is essentially an excellent story. Instead we are left with an intrusive sense of uncertainty." However, she also noted that "Sheers is a poet, and his descriptions are peppered with vivid details." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly remarked that "Sheers effectively conveys the white community's disapproval of Cripps's belief in African land rights and independence." Similarly, Entertainment Weekly reviewer Alice King called The Dust Diaries "a moving picture of Zimbabwe's colonial past and the violent present."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, February 15, 2004, Hazel Rochman, review of The Dust Diaries: Seeking the African Legacy of Arthur Cripps, p. 1019.

Entertainment Weekly, March 26, 2004, Alice King, review of The Dust Diaries, p. 79.

Guardian (Manchester, England), September 30, 2000, Nicholas Wroe, "Verses from the Valleys" (interview), p. 11.

Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2004, review of The Dust Diaries, p. 122.

New Statesman, February 23, 2004, Helena Drysdale, "A Lone Voice," p. 52.

Publishers Weekly, February 2, 2004, review of The Dust Diaries, p. 68.

Town and Country, August, 2004, Melissa Briggs Bradley, "African Tales," p. 75.

ONLINE

Owen Sheers Home Page, http://www.owensheers.com.uk (August 27, 2004).

Tregolwyn Book Reviews Online,http://tregolwyn.tripod.com/ (August 27, 2004), Deborah Fisher, review of The Blue Book.*

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