We all have different predilections, different experiences and different perspectives on life. So the words gathered in today today today, Alec Finlay’s latest pamphlet from Playspace Publications will touch you differently from how they touch me. That said, I’d find it difficult to believe many people could read these poems without being moved.
A product of Alec Finlay’s residency at the Beatson Centre, the poems were gifted to patients undergoing treatment for cancer. Such work deserves preoccupations. In this case, the preoccupations are today, sickness, mortality and words.
Words are so important and so difficult during times of illness and the end of life. Ever felt you didn’t know what to say, to someone facing terminal illness or their loved ones? I know I have. I know I will. Reading these poems won’t change that, but it affirms their power –
all I can do today
these few words
The words are treated with due respect, by both poet and publisher in these pages. Like the days, the pages go by without number, each with their own highlights, their own atmosphere.
One reality of any project around cancer care is that people die. It may be tempting for an author to duck this, to adjust his focus elsewhere, to direct the reader to feeling better, to take their mind away from the ubiquitous taboo. Finlay’s gift is to offer the pill as bitter as it is, with compassion to help it down
it’s the way she
holds me that
there’s one sleep
for each of us
with a dream
and no dawn
The death which is so unambiguously faced is of course the result of illness. The condition of illness, its treatment and the impact on sufferers and those around them will come to most of us in one way or another. In the environment of today today today, that illness can be intense and prolonged. As with its conclusion, illness in today today today is not maltreated by understatement, by ignorance or by the flimsy wallpaper which I know I’ve been guilty of applying to a crack so visceral as to become part of the wall
you go on
today I can go
the thing about weakness is
how strong it is
Which brings us to the first and last, to the only theme there is, the truth which gives the pamphlet its title. Today is all we ever have. Yesterday will never come back, and Finlay does not allude to it. Tomorrow is a dream, and it does crop up from time to time, but from the beginning
each of us
to the end
the words, the poems are set entirely in the present – in the today which is all we ever have, all we can ever truly rely on.
Alec Finlay’s gifts help those in need of succour, who’s worlds have been turned upside down. Thanks to Playspace Publications, you can receive them today today today