|Joan Mercer Abse|
Saturday, November 9, 2013
The Presence (2007)
by Dannie Abse (Welsh-Jewish poet-physician b. 1923)
from the Guardian: “There are no chapters in this book, just dates. It is the story of one man's year as he struggles to make sense of a life without his wife of more than 50 years. The book opens with the obituary of Joan Abse, killed instantly in a car crash in June 2005. Throughout the book her husband will recall countless details of the accident that took "in one unpredictable moment, my lover, my ally, and my friend". You yearn for the respite of a chapter break, but there are none, just as there is "no happy ending". The reader has to come to terms with that, as does Abse, this famous poet and doctor, who carries on giving readings and attempting to watch football but whose mind is always occupied in recollection. There is some humour, and inconsequential details, practicalities and outbursts. Accounts of buying trousers, walking in the park and seeing friends are interspersed with memories of Joan and others; and with poems, anecdotes and stories which seem to appear in random order, as in a commonplace book, but which beautifully, painfully convey the intertwining filaments of two lives.”
Note: This was a moving and eloquent journal starting a few months after Abse’s wife Joan’s death in a motor vehicle accident. Each of us grieves in her own way, and this is another piece to the puzzle. Reading The Presence is like having a conversation with an insightful human being who is a word-smith and a knowledgeable physician-healer.