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Aged perspectives

Whenever the poet, Hugo Williams, is not writing the Freelance column in the Times Literary Supplement I feel tempted to pass by to the next page. Often, when I don't, I'm surprised. Sometimes not. Williams has a way with prose that I find characteristic of many poets changing form. Concise, as if keen to keep it plain and simple lest they be accused of being a purple proser! It works to lend poignancy to what is written, and Williams, ageing with health conditions, often conveys much poignancy but never self-pity. At the same time he can deliver slices of his childhood, growing up with an actor for a father, and his subsequent marriage marked by separations. He is poignant yet funny; deadpan. Donald Hall, another poet, in his 80s, has been given a similar prose purpose in the current issue of the New Yorker. Hall recounts his time stopped and staring - out on to his New Hampshire garden in which the birds visit to stock up from the feeder. He recalls decades gone by, when the barn was a working one, when hale bays were done by hand. But now he's in his eighties and he muses on the decades gone by - how his wife died, fellow poet Jane Kenyon, when she was just forty-seven. How his father died in his fifties. Death. Pondering the inevitable from his seat looking out onto the winter garden. Like Williams, Hall has also made his prose as concise as can be, conveying poignancy and a dose of melancholy. It made me realise that we need more voices of those in the winters of their lives. How it can be a time of unbearable condescension from others. How rewarding it can be. How death is always on the horizon, enabling them to hone in on the essentials; birds feeding.


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