Age crops up a lot in poetry, often seen through a singular lens - personal, political, or emotional. Anthologies offer a chance to take a wider, longer look at how poets choose to engage with age and few collections are more entertaining, well-judged and thought-provoking than this neat set stylishly produced by the Emma Press.
Sarah Hesketh has selected around 40 submitted poems of real range, style and insight, which go beyond the usual. Taken together they give ample proof of the unique value of poems in revealing what she describes as the "whole complex, messy, multi-faceted view of age". The concise introduction rightly challenges the historical tendency to connect age with extremes and lack of nuance, and helpfully sets out the rationale behind the chosen poems, enhancing rather than ruining their impact.
Dementia, or more precisely age in care homes, features in two contrasting poems. It is refreshing to find age re-asserted as the focus for collective work for once, given the noise around all things dementia at the moment. And the work shares one overriding characteristic which marks it out from "dementia poetry"' - namely its quality.
Clever sequencing and juxtaposition encourage in the reader a simple but profound sense of the inevitability of age as a shared experience without sadness as the dominant feeling. It has a spring in its step throughout.
This is an anthology rich in resonance and new imagery, where just about every poem is succinct, accessible and assured in tone and purpose. There is some elegiac big picture engagement alongside more familiar reflections on loss, death and memory, and the indignities which age brings. But space is found for the delights of ageing. It is a nicely rounded collection.
Amy McCauley's "I've heard of age: how it gobbles the time", sets the bar high with a sureness of touch which other poems match.
Praise has to go to Emma Wright, whose deft illustrations, complement the reflective mood of the collection. The Emma Press has delivered a quality product at exactly the right time. It is to be savoured.
Anthology of Age, edited by Sarah Hesketh is available from The Emma Press.