Profound in simplicity and life-affirming, The Year of the Crab

June 20th, 2018 § 0 comments

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Gordon Meade’s ‘brave and unflinching’ poetry collection, The Year of the Crab, is reviewed by Cathy McGrath on The High Window. The poems chronicle the year following Meade’s cancer diagnosis and through his treatment. McGrath writes:

Everywhere Meade looks there are reminders of his reality. Otherwise ordinary observations become metaphors for the horror that he is facing. His initial enjoyment of watching woodpeckers in ‘The Family Name’ leads to the discovery that their family name is ‘descent’; it is obvious that everything is tainted. Meade is confronted with his own mortality and unable to escape his spiralling thoughts; it is his refusal to pretend but his decision to catalogue daily events through the lens of fear that makes this collection brave and unflinching.

The reader is spared little, and there are, as McGrath writes, ‘no saccharin happy ever afters’; however, ‘The final few poems in the collection are like breathing out after being underwater for too long.’

It is the penultimate poem though, ‘The Care Team,’ that moved me most in this collection. As Meade acknowledges the silent suffering of his family during his treatment, his wife: ‘one night, crying in the kitchen’ and his daughter ‘afraid’, we as readers are reminded that so many people are affected by cancer, not just the sufferers themselves and that it is the  ‘nurturing and non-invasive love’ alongside medical treatments that give people the oxygen they need to survive.

For his finale Meade, of course, returns to the sea, but now it has ‘turned autumnal’. He is aware that everything is ‘more threatening’, the colours no longer white but ‘grey and black’. Meade no longer reads the earthbound signs to know that he has passed his summer season, but acknowledges that it is from the unpredictable, unchained:

Sky above us, by the birds that fly
around us and, mostly, by the sea’

that we can tell ‘everything’. Life is constantly swirling, swooping and scudding by. Meade encourages us, with a warning, to embrace the elements.

Julian Colton, reviewing in The Eildon Tree, Issue 30, finds that ‘Meade pulls no punches’ in a collection ‘centred on pain and stark life and death choices’.

Having seen and heard Gordon Meade read I know he is probably a writer best appreciated at a live event where his wonderful softly spoken vocal style brings out the little nuances and inflections in the text. Though focused on the strong possibility and nature of death throughout, these poems are profound in their simplicity and immensely life-affirming.

Order Gordon Meade’s poetry collection for £10 plus p&p:The Year of the Crab

Order two or more books from this website, and p&p is free. Gordon Meade has two other collections published by Cultured Llama: Sounds of the Real World and Les Animots: A Human Bestiary, with images by Doug Robertson.

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