Jack Ross, ed.: Spin 36 (March 2000)
Here After. Living with Bereavement: Personal Experiences and Poetry, edited by Stu Bagby. Antediluvian Press, 9 Daphne Harden Lane, Albany, Auckland, 2000. ISBN 0-473-06399-9. 104pp. $19.95.
Styu Bagby, ed.: Here After (2000)
This is an anthology of personal testimonies and poems about the experience of bereavement. Stu Bagby, a well-known poet who doubles as a cemetery assistant on Auckland’s North Shore, hopes (as he remarks in the preface) that it “will provide solace and encouragement to some, and confirm the validity of life being lived, and of lives now past.” There’s a certain amount of aesthetic distancing in some of the extracts: well-known pieces by Elizabeth Smither (“A Cortège of Daughters”), Vincent O’Sullivan (two poems from Brother Jonathan, Brother Kafka), and Lauris Edmond (herself now, alas, gone to the shades). Others are heartbreakingly – if at times clumsily – real. Like the bereavement column at the back of the newspaper, they exert a somehow extra-literary power. The justification for the book is primarily pragmatic, then. It aims to help out, as well as providing some appropriate texts for meditation or reading aloud. It fulfils both these purposes very well, though I have to confess that I found parts of it almost too painful to read.