A poetic approach to dealing with cancer
Eileen swings her legs off the bed, wobbles upright.
I’m impressed with her flair for the vertical. She stuffs
her drainage bottle into an Asda carrier bag and croaks
I’m off for some fresh air,
voice husky from the 40-a-day habit
she maintains in the hospital car park.
That afternoon, I escape
in a taxi. Two weeks parole for good behaviour.
The boundary wall is crowded with women
fluffed up in battered dressing-gowns, cheeks collapsed
around sticky filter-tips. Eileen spots me, waves
the red stoplight of her cigarette.
From the collection Everything Must Go which can be bought from this website.
The very first London reading from Everything Must Go took place during our Christmas Party on 19 December at the Poetry Cafe.
Being told you have cancer is a life-changing event. Rosie Garland, writer and performer, didn’t need any tissues when she was told, but later used poetry to come to terms with the disease, treatment and slow recovery.
Her account is not at all melodramatic or tearful, but paints vivid pictures, so you can see the waiting room or the ward and feel that you’re joining her on this journey.
Today, the oncologist talks me through the scan.
There’s a scatter of shadows across my throat,
as though bruised by a stampede of bovine hooves.
From: ‘No-one is crying in the waiting room’
The apology of shrug-
and-look-away. We know each detail
of the carpet: the stain where someone spilled
tea from a flimsy plastic cup, the rucked
flap where new patients trip up, although
there’s black-and-yellow tape.
Just the title of a poem can say it all: ‘My clothes are putting on weight’.
Rosie is a true performer and this shines through in the poems, which have a dynamic and rhythmic beat, especially when things get tough. Most importantly, she shows how any disease – and cancer especially – attacks your humanity and more specifically your femininity. Yet the way she puts this into words is also uplifting.
Who is this stranger who crept in and stole
my body, and left me with a sack of sticks?
Throwing up over the consultant
when he asks you how you’re feeling.
so hard it comes out of your nose.
Acquiring the skill of throwing up accurately.
A kaleidoscope of emotions:
After leaving the consultant’s office
Why you did not pick up the phone after Tuesday
No-one is crying in the waiting room
My clothes are putting on weight
Postcard to myself from the chemo ward
Week 7, Day 4, Cisplatin
Not this body
What I come back to
Nostalgie de la boeuf
Still life with cancer
A donor’s card
The year of sitting down
I have this dance
You can read each poem on its own, but together they tell the story of a journey. This is a rather rare occurrence in poetry collections and makes Everything Must Go something special.
You can now listen to Fortune teller, Moratorium, So long, Good behaviour, A Donor’s card & Dignity on video!
£8.99 – €10.00 – $14.00
You can buy Everythiung Must Go now by clicking on the ‘Buy this book’ button on this page. Your card will be debited in your local currency.
If you want to order in any other way, please email the publisher.
Rosie Garland will read from Everything Must Go at the Cheltenham Poetry Festival2014 on 28 March at 7.30pm. The Quiet Compere presents A Matter of Life, Death and Poetry, A Night of Poetic Talent bonded lightly by the theme of Medicine hosted by Sarah L Dixon. Venue: Copa 66 Regent Street Cheltenham GL50 1HA
Everything Must Go was launched at:
Manchester Literature Festival on Wednesday 17 October at 1 pm in Waterstones Deansgate;
Lancaster LitFest on Thursday 18 October at 1pm in The Gallery at The Dukes.
Read also Michael Smaczylo blog about the Manchester event and Freya Gallagher-Jones about the Lancaster event.