Welcome to the Deep Woods
A space to explore our sense of wonder and wild creativity.
“All day the stars watch from long ago”
It’s my all-time favourite sentence, written by W. S. Merwin in his poem “Rain Light”. It’s huge and intimate. There’s so much wildness in it.
Merwin defined wildness as everything that is just beyond reach. It’s a beautiful image and it applies also to creativity, which is the act of reaching for something we’re not quite sure is there. I’m a little obsessed with these intertwining themes. Everything in my work orbits around them.
I’ve just published a book about wildness and loss. It’s called Two Lights, which is a reference to twilight, that time of two lights - the light of day and the light of night. It’s the time we’re most creative, the time we’re most receptive to wonder, the time we’re most connected to the ground beneath our feet and the sky overhead.
We’re connected over distances, in time and space; to our memories and the evolution of our places and cultures, to the vast community of life which needs us to slow down and pay attention to the little miracles happening all around us.
I write much about nature, about my wild surroundings here in the UK, which is perhaps one of the least wild places on earth, a tiny, intensively farmed and urbanised island, a place where it is utterly impossible to get lost (though I will never stop trying!). Our wildernesses here are generally hidden places: tiny abandoned woods overlooking towns and cities; old commons and heaths; streams and stretches of river at the bottom of steep ravines; tangled, hollow lanes. I’ll be writing about these places. There are also wild spaces inside us and I’ll write about those too.
I spend a lot of my time living on a little narrowboat called Masquerade, moored on a canal which is so narrow you can almost jump across it. It was cut centuries ago from the mountainsides to shift coal to ports and factories, an industrial superstructure. It’s now overhung along its whole length by intertwining oak, ash and willow trees, a green, mirror-tunnel, a miraculous little wilderness 23 miles long and only 20 feet wide. I write and draw on the bow of Masquerade, watched curiously by ducks and squirrels, woodpeckers and linnets. The canal is a man-made structure, but it’s become a wild place. As individuals, members of a global community imperilled by its own advancement, we’re now in need of a similar wilding, I believe. Like the canal, we can allow ourselves to be taken over by the creativity of the universe. It requires art and poetry, music and dancing, new practices of the heart, new ways of loving and making. It’s what this space is for. You’re very welcome here.
Who is James Roberts?
I’m a writer and artist, maker, and lover of wild things. I’ve been an editor, art director, designer, animator, dramatist, technologist and all-round creative. I went to art school years ago and have a degree in Industrial Design. I’m a Fellow of The Royal Society of Arts. My writing has been published in many literary journals and magazines as well as mainstream publications like National Geographic and The Scotsman. My illustrations have featured on book and magazine covers as well as stage sets. I’ve been interviewed several times on BBC radio as well as for academic institutions. I’ve done many talks and readings at Universities, bookshops and galleries. But none of the above tells you who I am. I’m a father, a son, a husband, a brother and a friend. I love dogs, horses, slow boats, blueberries, clotted cream, Staffordshire oat cakes, hibiscus flowers, the colour teal, crackle glazes and Indian ink. I walk a lot and spend as much time as I can staring at stars, rivers, seas and trees. I can’t imagine living in a world without kingfishers and robins, salmon and lionfish, red admiral butterflies and luna moths. That’s who I am. Good to meet you.
What and when:
I’ll be posting weekly - little wanderings and foragings into our creative nature and inner wilds. I’ll be visiting new places, climbing hills, watching birds, following herds of wild ponies.
I’ll be sharing new pieces of art, illustrations, and poems.
You’ll receive additional long-form posts, videos, and offers on new prints, cards and publications from my micropress.
I’ll host occasional discussions on writing and art for the wild, and how best to create and propagate wonder.