More reviews for Memorandum: Poems for the Fallen by Vanessa Gebbie. All the reviews received so far, and there are many, point to this being an important collection of war poetry.
Greg Freeman had this to say on Write Out Loud:
This collection, a work of extensive research and empathy, is a reminder of the huge variety of war memorials that exist, and their importance to us; lest we forget. Vanessa Gebbie has found something new and worthwhile to say in poetry about war, in a way that is both moving and unsentimental, and that also widens and refreshes our understanding of that terrible conflict.
Nick Cooke, on London Grip, refers ‘to several absolute tours de force which will long remain in my mind’. He goes on to say:
The collection’s title poem, subtitled ‘Battlefields of the Somme’, is worth quoting in full, for its muted yet awestruck sense of survival balanced against scarcity and littleness, where the words ‘a few’, ‘residue’, ‘too small’ and ‘fragments’ carry magnified significance:If you walk the broad-shouldered fields around Longueval, consider the dusty beet that wait in patient ranks beneath the mid-September sun. And if you stop to rest by a stand of beech trees, sky-lined not thirty minutes since, and uproot, absent-minded, a few blades of grass as you sit, consider too the root-clung residue, the iron motes too small to call harvest, and paler fragments, too painful to name.
As we approach the centenary of the Somme on 1 July, I can think of no more fitting tribute than Gebbie’s outstanding collection. It deserves a place among the most striking and moving testaments of the last hundred years, and will leave an indelible impression on all who read it.
I’m not going to quote from ‘The specials – poem for seven voices’, as I want you to come completely fresh to something which is really quite extraordinary. It’s set in a Great War cemetery in France, and the title mentions seven voices, so I might tell you that it evokes for me the voices of the drowned sailors at the beginning of ‘Under Milk Wood’. Vanessa Gebbie is Welsh, like Dylan Thomas, and she has the same ear for the richness of language. I’ve read this poem many times, and I’ve also seen it performed by a group of seven readers. It’s humbling to listen to, and unforgettable.
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