Field Light by Owen Lewis


Field Light, written as an extended, multi-sectioned poem that moves in and out of prose, is a personal and historical exploration of the Berkshires through poetry and prose. Physician-poet Owen Lewis becomes a figure in his own epic as he learns to see himself and the abounding history that lives in the towns of western Massachusetts. From the writers Hawthorne, Melville, nearby Stanley Kunitz, Chris Gilbert and others, to artists Daniel Chester French, his daughter Peggy Cresson and Norman Rockwell, from the young lawyer Theodor Sedgwick who undertook a trial in 1781 to free Elizabeth Mumbet ending slavery in Massachusetts, to civil rights champion W.E.B. Du Bois, to Arlo Guthrie, to physician Austen Riggs and his psychiatric hospital, to Gertrude Smith and the founding of Tanglewood,  Field Light investigates layered histories to create a compelling cultural, political and social narrative, with its cycles of privilege and racism, that continues to unfold. It is the story of finding one’s voice amid many voices, and the importance of the community of voices.

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  • Kind: Perfectbound
  • Pages: 148
  • Language: English
  • Date Published: June, 2020
  • ISBN:  978-1-948017-71-8


In Field Light Owen Lewis meditates on the fluidity of time in poems and short prose passages distinguished by considerable lyric and narrative dexterity.  Here, the past is many layered, cyclical, and complex, voices and stories in a tapestry of generations resonating in our shared present. Deep in the folds of history, the Berkshires comes to life through the eyes of this poet who inhabits his work as both observer and actor. Imagine W.E.B. Dubois admonishing the head of a local mental hospital, “Sociology. Isn’t that what we all now need?” Or the Lincoln who sits in his Washington D.C. Memorial, sculpted in the Berkshires, summoning malls of current day protestors. This is a book vast in social thought, in narrative, and, most of all, in exceptional poetry. —Kevin Prufer

It is tempting to describe Owen Lewis’s exceptional new book, Field Light, as an excavation of American and personal history.  The book centers on the site of an old house in Stockbridge Massachusetts, which Lewis took full possession of in 2011 following a divorce.  However, “excavation” is too plodding a noun to accurately characterize the qualities of this book in which poetry, scholarly footnotes, and photographs vie with one another to recall and recreate this vivid book’s geographical and emotional landscape.  Field Light is history as free fall— a restless book in which past and present, the historical and the personal, the significant and the incidental interrupt and chafe against each other.  In one dizzying footnote, for example, a reader learns that Arlo Guthrie’s anti-war protest song “Alice’s Restaurant” takes place in Stockbridge and, that the site of Norman Rockwell’s first studio in Stockbridge was situated above the restaurant.   If an epic is a poem with history in it,” Field Light is most certainly an epic of a particularly original and intimate sort.  I highly recommend Field Light for both its verve and its serious ethical concerns. —Lynn Emanuel


(turning back to the porch)

Turning into Dwelling. Lord, am I ready?
My colleague, Dr. Gilbert, asking.
Poet, healer, how the crickets’ sonic party
clicks deep in the grass outside, and I wonder
how many generations of these crickets
since he heard them in Worcester, these
sons and daughters of sons and daughters.
I join him, walk along in the language house
he builds out of anguish, beyond anguish,
my Black block that rose up in me like a grief—
for the poor blocks crumbling this country
now raising up this country. I follow his lead,
unmapped footsteps of this summer night come down.
In his dream, poetry is need. I say, and mine.
I say—amen.


Owen LewisOwen Lewis is the author of two prior collections of poetry, Marriage Map and Sometimes Full of Daylight (2017 and 2013 from Dos Madres Press), and two chapbooks. Best man received the 2016 Jean Pendrick Chapbook Prize (The New England Poetry Club). Recent honors include 2018 Runner-up, Wigtown Poetry Competition (Scotland); 2017 Finalist, Pablo Neruda Award; 2016 Winner, International Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine. His poetry has appeared in Nimrod, The Mississippi Review, Poetry Wales, Southward, The Four Way Review and other journals. He is a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University in New York City where he teaches in the Department of Medical Humanities and Ethics.

Additional information

Weight 9.9 oz
Dimensions 9 × 6 × .375 in