Thursday, 26 March 2015

REMEMBERING DANNIE ABSE

On Wednesday evening several hundred people turned up to King's College Grand Hall - a very elegant space - to hear friends, family and poets remember Dannie Abse.  There was a good deal about Cardiff City FC. There was the news (to me) that Dannie loved playing games - I mean actual games, like Monopoly and chess. That seemed somehow right, though, because games, to be enjoyable, have to be played properly.  You must be serious about them.  This was like Dannie - serious and enjoyable.  As Elaine Feinstein (I think) said: Dannie, despite the tragedy of his wife Joan's death, was lucky, because he loved life.  I think that's why he and my father, another life-celebrating Welshman, got on so well. "Abse, you Welsh Jew, come and have lunch with me", were the first words Dad directed at Dannie, and went on to introduce the poet to his first avocado pear (Dannie told me this story at least twice).  A consequence of that friendship was that I joined that select band at whose wedding Dannie read his surely ageless Epithalamium.   Owen Sheers read another poem that will last, In the Theatre, with its haunting refrain, "leave my soul alone".

Most moving was Dannie's daughter Susanna's euology and particular her memory of her father's taps on his children's hands, the day before he died.  baffled, ti was only when they were hom that they remembered the lines from Last Words:
And how would I wish to go? 
Not as in opera - that would offend 
-nor like a blue-eyed cowboy shot and short of words, 
but finger-tapping still our private morse,'...love you,' 
before the last flowers and flies descend. 

Please go to Dannie's Home Page to hear him read the whole poem.

Jeremy Robson, one of Dannie's oldest friends, read his own poem, Poet in the Park, a really quite lovely and loving thing. Daughter Keren read Last Words and then we heard Dannie speaking from The Presence, and we were left with his own, which was wry and melancholic in contemplation of man's idiocy, but overwhelmingly companionable,and somehow sweet. He probably wouldn't have liked that, though it is meant not in any saccharine way; I mean rather the sweetness of the celebrator, of gladioli.



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