Republic of Dogs / Republic of Birds

Stephen Watts

Traven T. Croves (Design) KOPA, Lithuania (Printer)




ISBN: 9781913513078


Publication date: 30 November 2020



Republic Of Dogs/Republic Of Birds is an urgent, meditative text of urban and rural language and landscapes. Its non-linear narrative moves between London’s Isle of Dogs and the Western Isles of Scotland and is both a topographical journey through two landscapes and a highly personal meditation on the history and geographies of these locations. The writing itself is a form of activism, memorialising eroded cultures through their physical traces and the stories and voices of their inhabitants.

Republic Of Dogs/Republic Of Birds is a lucid memorial text by one of the most astute and sensitive of writers on the relationship between landscape and time. The author’s distinct and visceral poetic sensibility combines a fierce honesty, rooted in the realities of places he has lived and worked in, with a beautiful and explosive imaginative lyricism.

Written on a typewriter in the 1980s, the manuscript was mislaid and lost. Found again in 2012 it was typed onto a laptop with minimal editing. First published by Test Centre in 2016 and republished in 2020, it is a text for and of our dissonant times.

‘Future generations will wonder how it was possible for Republic Of Dogs/Republic Of Birds, one of the remarkable books of our age, to pass unnoticed like a prophet through our midst.’ – Sasha Dugdale

‘I am moved and fascinated by Stephen Watts’s poetry in ways I find hard to explain and extraordinarily powerful to experience. He is among the most fine and subtle writers I know on the relations of landscape and mind.’ – Robert Macfarlane

‘Such free play of voice against finely calibrated shifts of light and atmosphere is intoxicating. Stephen Watts shapes a prose of rare integrity and grace. There is no estranged otherness, no prussic scorn even for the despoilers and exploiters of place. The poet’s generosity catches us off-balance, as we sift the local tideline and the deep time-line of the islands, acknowledging hermits and passerines. And joining cause with the least visible and most valued citizens of this republic of words. A rescued text that has found its moment. And its position alongside others jewels of the secret city: The Stumbling Block by Brian Catling, Cable Street by Lee Harwood, and Whitechapel by Bill Griffiths.’ – Iain Sinclair

‘For four decades, poet, translator and activist Stephen Watts has been the quietly urgent, profoundly committed voice of the underseen, the marginalised and the overlooked. He understands that the centre which matters lies at the edge, whether that be in the pull of ancient islands or the common ground of migrant streets. His tools are perennial witness and precise resistance through poem or prose, anchored in lyric anger for justice and praise song to the loved but fragile things. Like benign mercury, the language he deploys is one of dark illumination, earned and epiphanic. This is fiercely engaged internationalist writing invaluable both to our understanding of the Crisis, and to our ability to resist the abuses of the age. His time is now, crafting an enduring present, tense with solidarity, resonance and grace.’ – Gareth Evans