Mae themâu'r atgofion hyn yn cynnwys colled, galar a chariad. Cofnod ydyw o alar presennol, a phortread o briodas a barodd dros hanner can mlynedd. Mae'n boenus ond yn dathlu, ac yn drist yn ogystal â llawen.
Loss, grief and love are the themes of this extraordinary memoir from one of Britain's most distinguished poets. It is a record of present grief and a portrait of marriage which lasted more than fifty years. It is painful but celebratory and funny as well as sad.
On 13th June 2005, writer and art historian Joan Abse died in a car accident. Plunged into shock, grief and post-traumatic stress, her husband of fifty years and more decided to write a ‘diary/journal/anthology’. The Presence is a gift offered with disarming tentativeness by an acclaimed poet who knows that he will never entirely heal from his loss, but hopes that his writing will bring consolation not just for himself but for others, too.
Beginning in September 2005 and running through to the anniversary of Joan’s death, The Presence contains diary entries interspersed with memories of the past and with poems by Dannie Abse himself and a variety of other poets. It is a pleasing structure, with the often deliciously funny anecdotes about past events serving to relieve the more sombre mood of the diary ‘the woeful Now and the happier Then’.
Although Abse was writing primarily for himself, he is clearly also addressing a potential reader. The conjunction of the raw immediacy of his loss and this constant eye to publication means that, while there is an evident and understandable degree of self-censorship, there are moments when The Presence is painfully revealing. There are the ‘grey days sterile with idleness’, the unmanageable dilemma whereby it is unbearable to be at home yet equally unbearable not to be there, the much-needed fantasies that ‘Joan had not been killed but was merely staying away with friends’, the combined relief and guilt of momentary distraction and enjoyment universal experiences uniquely felt.
Anyone who has experienced a close bereavement, and particularly a sudden one, will recognise much here, but The Presence will undoubtedly find a wider readership. Abse’s writing is, of course, superlative and there are some stunning evocations of place. The tales of fraternal rivalry and gossipy snippets about various ‘literati’ entertain, while the poems illuminate. Joan Abse’s solid yet ethereal presence shines through it all.
Suzy Ceulan Hughes
It is possible to use this review for promotional purposes, but the following acknowledgment should be included: A review from www.gwales.com, with the permission of the Welsh Books Council.
Gellir defnyddio'r adolygiad hwn at bwrpas hybu, ond gofynnir i chi gynnwys y gydnabyddiaeth ganlynol: Adolygiad oddi ar www.gwales.com, trwy ganiatâd Cyngor Llyfrau Cymru.