Skip to main content

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.



Location:Kew

Popular posts from this blog

Who was Mary Burns?

On 7th January 1863 Mary Burns was found dead from a suspected heart attack. She was 43 years old. Since her death Mary has received barely any attention despite the fact that she spent over twenty years as the common-law wife of Friedrich Engels, one of the world’s most influential thinkers and the co-founder of Marxism.

Born in 1822, Mary was the oldest surviving child of textile dyer and factory operative, Michael Burns, and Mary Conroy, Irish immigrants from Tipperary. Mary’s parents had married at St. Patrick’s in an area known casually as Irish Town, one of few Catholic churches in Manchester at that time. The year of Mary’s birth and her infancy were significant in that Manchester was still dealing with the aftermath of the event that became known as the 1819 Peterloo Massacre, a peaceful protest of the working-classes on the site of St. Peter’s Fields in which several people were killed and hundreds injured. The Massacre occurred when magistrates, alarmed at the size of t…

Booker Shortlist announced

It's been a while... I know. Dog walking on the Downs, a bit of theatre, a bit of baking, a bit of writing etcetera etcetera. I also managed to read two complete books in the past month, which I was so pleased about. I had not read a whole book for about a year. The first was A Lie About My Father by Scottish poet/writer, John Burnside; a very well written memoir about father and son, but like all memoirs, some unreliability I felt. Poignant and tragic in equal measure. Then my husband returned from Cyprus (too hot for me this time of year, I can barely cope with England!) with Sebastian Faulks's Birdsong. He loved it. And then I read it and also loved it. I had originally picked it up several years ago but didn't get beyond Amiens, where the first section is set, but was really glad I did this time around. Another incredibly well written book in the style of a good Victorian! I felt a bit unsure about bits of Elizabeth, in the later section, but I have never learnt so muc…

Good Canary

Forgot to mention that we went to see Good Canary at Kingston's Rose Theatre last week. Star role played by the brilliantly intense Freya Mavor, who plays a speed addict. It's directed by John Malkovich - his UK's theatre directorial debut. Will try and post more about it later.