It’s a cliché and it’s true – none of us are getting any younger. But facing up to the reality of ageing, in a society that prizes youthfulness and demeans or ignores old age, is not easy. So The Emma Press’s new Anthology of Age feels like a small but much needed poetic intervention, a quiet prodding at one of our last taboos. I’m very pleased to have a poem included in the anthology – a poem I wrote nearly 20 years ago, but hadn’t sent out for nearly as long, because I was uncomfortable with the subject matter. There are a number of uneasy poems in this anthology, some unflinching looks at the difficulties and indignities too many people face in old age. But there are also splashes of humour, acres of compassion and humanity, and what the editor Sarah Hesketh describes in her introduction as ‘an immense outpouring of solidarity and shared feeling about ageing.’
One of my favourite poems in the book is 8 a.m. by Alison Brackenbury – four generous and joyous lines. Julia Bird’s Lethe and the Nightingale, composed solely from the words in Keats’ Ode to a Nightingale, manages to be both a tour de force and a tugger of heart strings. For humour, head to Outside the Pub, Hurricane Bawbag by Russell Jones; while On the Ferry by Sandra Horn is understatedly defiant. Every poem is telling in its own way, and the anthology contains many tough and poignant poems, such as My Camel by Emma-Jane Hughes, which I read, put down, read again, and it still won’t let me go.
The book itself is a handsome thing, sensitively illustrated by publisher Emma Wright. After several tries, this is my first poem to be accepted for an Emma Press anthology, and the experience has been something of a joy. Detailed emails keeping contributors informed of progress, proofs to check, a proper contract, and one of the best organised launch readings I’ve attended. Happily, I’ve now had a poem accepted for the forthcoming second edition of Mildly Erotic Verse, due out in January 2016. Just don’t tell my Mum.