Riddance is a remarkable collection, moving, but also funny and admirable, rueful and hopeful. A few of the poems are especially breathtaking; ‘Visitation’ in particular. But I think it’s the accretion of matter that’s most extraordinary, the way the collection grows and occasionally twists back on itself, the way ideas pop up in different contexts so that the difficulty of the subject is gradually mediated by the honesty and insistence of the voice. Finally I loved its mundanity: if cancer is anything it is common, while poetry often aspires to the universal. Anthony Wilson understands that commonness and universality are close cousins, but not quite the same thing, and that sensitivity shines throughout the collection.
Peter Scott, co-editor of The Junket
A devastatingly candid and clear-eyed response to Wilson’s diagnosis in 2006 with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Riddance charts the progress of his treatment for this disease, from initial diagnosis to the uncertainty of remission, from The Year of Drinking Water to Reasons For Life, plotting hope’s slow curve against an ever-tremulous axis. Each poem is a small marvel on grave themes, a grand paean to the minutiae of a life worth cherishing, where Chemotherapy For Dummies is redrafted by The Script Writers Of Frasier, where ‘On bad days you long to be dead./ On good days you think you are’, each setback somehow answered by ‘that champagne moment’ of another tomorrow.
The Poetry Book Society Autumn Bulletin
Reading the poems in Anthony Wilson’s Riddance I had the sensation of walking through a large house, switching on lamps and spotlights to illuminate not immediately visible nooks and crannies. Nowhere is there one garish light explaining everything at once and, although the book is divided into five sections, I felt inclined to move freely within the house, revisiting the poems I found the most satisfying, and there are many of them.
Riddance documents Wilson’s personal experience of cancer, from initial diagnosis and treatment to the tentative relief of being in remission. But Riddance is the opposite of a depressing read.
In facing death he witnesses, in exquisite detail, the pleasure to be found in small things.
Mike Ferguson has reviewed Riddance on his blog here
Judi Sutherland has reviewed Riddance on the Dr Fulminare blog here:
Riddance deserves to be in every oncologist’s waiting room and given to every cancer patient’s family because it tells us how it actually feels to be treated for cancer, and it resists the ‘othering’ of cancer patients.
You can read a review of Riddance on Amazon here
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