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The bed of memory - Jean Earle

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The bed of memory
Jean Earle
Paperback / softback
UK Publication Date

A collection of forty-seven deeply personal poems in joyful celebration of the richness of the memories of a nonagenarian, including moving commemorative poems to her late husband.

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In the first poem in The Bed of Memory, the poet, no longer young, finds herself caught off-guard by the brilliant colour of a pink handkerchief against a green lawn, a moment charged for her with a power ?beyond what age expects?. Like Hardy looking into his mirror in old age and wishing that his heart had grown as thin, it is the power of emotion and recollection, still making their presence felt in later life, which Jean Earle explores in these poems.

Many of them detail her response, by turns angry and resigned, to the death of her husband, and there are some beautiful evocations of long-forgotten incidents which have taken on a new significance after death. In ?A Day Away?, where the setting is a trip to the seaside, the unremarkable features of a familiar shop, a coat spread on the grass and the feel of sunburn at the end of the day are precisely what gives the poem its power to move.

?As It Was Then? is a lyrical snapshot of a miner and his sweetheart in the not-so-distant past, climbing the mountain to the house where she lives. The picture of the couple, momentarily disturbed by some earlier disagreement, with the woman carrying bluebells wilting in her hands and the flowers crying out for ?a looser clutch, connection with the earth/Water?, makes its effect with absolute concision.

Elsewhere, there is perhaps too much of a straining for the effect of regret at time passing and the use of a dotted line to frame recollections (?I was here before . . .?, ?How magical the world has been/Simmering and remarkable . . .?) feels forced.

And yet, in the atmosphere of this highly personal, indeed confessional contemplation of the past, it is the poem ?Dorothy Wordsworth? which is the most powerful piece. Its six first-person sections are alive with the spirit of Dorothy?s journals, and touch on her love for her brother, her acute eye for nature and, finally, her struggles with mental illness when her mind ?sees/Emerald to light the world? and yet her tongue ?spills/Nonsense and fret?. Here, by turning her focus on to a bed of memory not her own, Jean Earle has provided a striking centrepiece to a sustained meditation on loss and grief.
Graham Tomlinson @

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