Like taking a slow walk with a wise and witty companion. From the Anglo-Saxon alliteration of Stoned by a Dry Wall to the exuberant closing glimpse of a man feasting on words, this is a book for people who love language.
It’s also an account of a life well-lived, observing its own ending with integrity, and a hard-won sense of peace.
There are forms to suit everyone – the taut constraint of sonnet or villanelle, couplet, pun, streams of leaping verbs that echo the sprung rhythms of Gerard Manley Hopkins – held together by a unity of vision.
There’s a heightened intensity to these poems. Things glow and glitter from the shadows where the darkness ‘hums a melody of solstice [and] equinox’. The contrasts in here are strong. Anderson describes ‘healing love and conflict in equal measure’. There is ‘salt [slipped] into the wound of the word’, but there is also sweetness of saffron the scent of a Sweet Pea, a season which is ‘a gourmand of light’. And though Anderson writes about mortality and ‘the fragile conventions of time’s tower’, he still gets tipsy on ‘the liquor of the moment’ and writes about life; his family, his bountiful garden where a nesting blackbird ‘charms the air awake’. He writes about growth: the growth of love, knowledge and acceptance.
Of all the art and language forms, perhaps poetry is the best suited to speaking from the borders of human experience. In Preposthumous Poems, Steve Anderson speaks to us about what it is like to die, and what it means to live. This is a far-reaching, varied collection packed with reflection, emotion and quiet observation in which “tea retains the taste of magic/and possibility”. Rich in detail and lyricism, Steve’s poetry bears witness to terminal illness as a process filled not only with darkness, but also colour and unexpected light:
“I choose spring for my end
Fade out as the asparagus arrives
Be remembered tender”
Birthdays beginning to loosen their toll
Spirit the scale, life becomes measured
In youth as we meet it matters how old
But time unravels together’s treasure
Then birth of a baby, one to the toll
A perfect arrival, joy unmeasured
And steely the bond no matter how old
Here there is no glister but true treasure
And as I turn to leave, what then the toll?
We held hands, gave thanks, let that be measure
I have asked and asked, but still became old
In seeking, the key, we all enjoy treasure
When I have gone and played fully my part
No more searching then for what lies at heart