Beta
X

16Mar

Empty Nest: Poems for Families, edited by Carol Ann Duffy review – the agony of absence

Fathers, mothers and grownup children reflect on leaving home and the ‘dance between closeness and distance’ in an outstanding anthology

This is not, as is the usual rule of this column, a collection but an outstanding anthology in which fathers, mothers and grownup children speak of themselves and, sometimes, to one another. A new form of homesickness is identified in which it is home itself that sickens. In the poem from which the anthology gets its title, Carol Ann Duffy suggests that her house “pines” when her daughter is away. Gabriel Griffin in Alone describes his home’s echoing uncanniness, a “golden hum in the house now they’ve gone”, and Sharon Olds registers a “strange quiet” in her wildcard of a poem Forty-One, Alone, No Gerbil in which even her daughter’s thankless gerbils have died.

A child must be allowed to grow up and leave. Several poems describe a retreating back view, more telling than any organised face of farewell. Cecil Day-Lewis sees this early on in Walking Away, dedicated to his son Sean, whom he describes “walking away from me towards the school/With the pathos of a half-fledged thing set free…” Sometimes, it is the parent whose back is turned. In Eavan Boland’s The Necessity for Irony (and what a maestro at understanding family she was), this is a cause of regret. She remembers visiting antique fairs with her flame-haired 12-year-old:

Continue reading...

Related

All the Flowers Kneeling by Paul Tran review – a confrontation of pain and poetic form

The aftermath of abuse is met head-on by subtle and delicate skill in the Vietnamese-American poet’...

Read More >

Lea Ypi: ‘Hope is a moral duty’

The Albanian author and academic on what she misses most about her homeland and how a communist chil...

Read More >

Music for the Dead and Resurrected by Valzhyna Mort review – a bright new voice from an endless winter

This exceptional collection from the Belarus-born poet digs into what happens when the self goes mis...

Read More >

Every Family Has a Story by Julia Samuel review – why we inherit our parents’ problems

The bestselling psychotherapist explores how trauma and anxiety can pass through generations in thes...

Read More >

Unexhausted Time by Emily Berry review – language that defies all limits

These strange, intimate poems blur the boundaries between waking and dreaming, past and futureIn Emi...

Read More >

C+nto & Othered Poems by Joelle Taylor review – punchy tales of lesbian life

The winner of the TS Eliot prize offers a rallying cry for gay unity amid prejudice and deathJoelle ...

Read More >