Rosie Garland – Everything Must Go

Rosie Garland’s book achieves something remarkable. It takes you through her journey of cancer, but without a moment of discomfort in the reading.  

In the last poem, Dignity, she lists a series of checkpoints along the way, from ‘Going bald’ to
‘Remaining polite
when people cross the room
in case you talk to them about it.’

And although her poetry does just that, with medical and physical frankness, it is neither angry, self-pitying, or trying to hand-down wisdom from the lofty stand-point of experience.  Instead, it is the process of the thing that is charted, as if over months of coffee cups in a friend’s kitchen; just hearing how it is.

There are fragments of beauty in the language, such as in the poem After Leaving the Consultants Office, which ends
‘Lift the handset of the phone; savour the comfort
of the quiet burr, before tapping in the first
of a hundred numbers.’

Or the poem So Long, which starts ‘I thought I would wake one morning and you’d be gone.’ We follow fearfully a partner’s suspected cowardice, waiting to learn that they have disappeared one day; until unsprung by the last stanza, which finishes
‘..I’m fed up
of this long goodbye. Plug in the clippers
set them to Number 1. Press go.’

It is this ability to take us through her journey whilst maintaining an everyday humour; poetry about a serious matter that contains all the playfulness of language and form that make poems worth reading….this is what stays with you long after the final page is closed.

And that is what, in turn, makes this not a book about cancer, but simply a collection of great poems. To be read perhaps by those awaiting a diagnosis, or those with a friend in the same position, certainly. But primarily, its value lies simply in itself - it is for any lover of good poetry. 


Alison Moulden

Note: Ariadne's Thread published Rosie Garland's poem Incubus in issue 1

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