Self-portrait as Bartlett pear

I consider
me fat
and the pear, its honey
juice scenting all fingers.
An early child, my parents found
me awkward. I know a fruit now
can be the size of the world, and self-sufficient
without self-doubt, memory milks petals
the first to appear on the trees, blossom
filling the orchard with light.

by L. Kiew

‘Self-portrait as Bartlett pear’ is copyright © L. Kiew, 2023, and is reprinted here from More than Weeds (Nine Arches Press, 2023) by permission of Nine Arches Press. You can read more about the book on the Nine Arches website.

More Than Weeds, the debut poetry collection by L. Kiew, explores the language of migration and how it is used in relation to plant and animal species, as well as peoples. These knowledgeable and verdant poems draw deeply on botanical and ecological detail and reveal secret histories thriving in the gaps between definitions; here are precious seedlings, unforced flowers, tongues of leaves, tangled roots and rhizomes.

With roots in decolonialising botany and horticulture movements, and influenced by the impact of the climate crisis and regenerative gardening practices, Kiew’s poetry is alive and thronging with the interconnected nature of things – and the formative forces of nurture, family, food, refuge and love. Human and plant voices speak for themselves of experiences of belonging and displacement, as well as encounters with violence. These vivid poems that ask us to scrutinise what is really contained or constrained by demarcations – whether those of weed or wildflower, or of borders and hostile environments.

A chinese-malaysian living in London, L Kiew earns her living as a charity sector leader and an accountant. She holds a MSc in Creative Writing and Literary Studies from Edinburgh University. Her pamphlet The Unquiet was published by Offord Road Books in 2019. Her debut collection, More than Weeds, came out in February 2023 with Nine Arches Press.

You can find more about L. Kiew on their website and follow them on Instagram and Twitter

Praise for More Than Weeds:

“L Kiew’s poems are inventive and iridescent. More than Weeds navigates ecology, migration and identity with a subtle and complex skill. Animated, strange, acutely-observed, the world in these poems is given an arresting voice.” – Seán Hewitt

“L.Kiew’s radically sensuous debut speaks from the wet earth up. Charting the aftermaths of past empires, inner city and rainforest habitats are interwoven through an ecology of tender co-nurture. Intimate with food insecurity and climate threat, fierce poems stand with migrants fleeing where “the logger’s axe made ghosts of us”. Sharing the “lemony silence” of transplanted knotweed, and the “treelace” of harvested latex, More than Weeds gives us new eyes through which to know our world.” – alice hiller

“Poems in More than Weeds grow, shapeshift and inhabit different spaces of language, emotions, and imagination. There are poems about the family, journey, and love – they crawl and dash off the page, alive and surprising like rabbits glutting grass banks by Inverness station. There are also poems that stay and endure, rewilding themselves into the psyche, like seed heads exploding afternoon showers. A beautiful and resonant collection.” – Romalyn Ante

Nine Arches Press was founded in 2008 and emerged from an awareness of the national literary landscape and a desire to provide a platform for new and emerging poets. Our titles have been widely acclaimed and shortlisted for national prizes including the Michael Marks Poetry Pamphlet prize, the Forward Prizes, TS Eliot Poetry Prize, the Ted Hughes Award, the Michael Murphy Prize, the Jhalak Prize, and the Polari Prize. Nine Arches has published over 120 poetry publications, and 29 issues of Under the Radar magazine, and provides a year-round programme of workshops, events, as well as priding themselves as publisher that uniquely provides writer development and mentoring. Nine Arches Press is an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation, and its Director / Editor is Jane Commane. Read more about the press on the Nine Arches website, and follow Nine Arches on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.