The Nation’s Favourite Poems of Remembrance
Foreword by Michael Rosen
This collection of poems is a rich source for anyone seeking to reflect and remember times past and the dead. From D.H. Lawrence’s tender memory of his mother in Piano to the bleak, A Refusal to Mourn the Death by Fire of a Child in London by Dylan Thomas, the tone and timbre of recollections echo through the work in ways that comfort and disconcert.
The terrible moments of love and loss captured so ineffably in I See You Dancing Father by Brendan Kennelly are hard reading, and harder to revisit because there is such implacable sadness. There are many other poems that soften and console the blow of grief, Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep (Anon) is the bitter sweet dream of death that is a counterpoint to the dredging nightmare of 341 by Emily Dickinson.
I couldn’t help but observe that only a quarter of the poems are written by women, disappointing given the ubiquity of grief and its remembrance, not to mention the millions of women left widowed by war. Is their dignity greater resting in silent undramatic pain, or is it exclusion?
Perhaps my view is clouded by reflections following the tone of some of the centenary events for the armistice. Woman and children continue to be displaced and abused by conflict. Female voices are lacking from the ‘Nation’s Favourites’ and I wonder whether is is because their stories too hard to endure? Or is it perhaps because of a lasting sense of shame?
Orkney, November 2018
Books by Gabrielle Barnby:
The Oystercatcher Girl – a beautifully understated story of deception and forgiveness, love and redemption.
The House with the Lilac Shutters and other stories – utterly original story-making of a very high quality.