Review – TodayTodayToday

today today today

We all have different predilections, different experiences and different perspectives on life. So the words gathered in today today today will touch you differently from how they touch me. That said, I’d find it difficult to believe many people could read these poems without being moved.

A product of Alec Finlay’s residency at the Beatson Centre, the poems were gifted to patients undergoing treatment for cancer. Such work deserves preoccupations. In this case, the preoccupations are today, sickness, mortality and words.

Words are so important and so difficult during times of illness and the end of life. Ever felt you didn’t know what to say, to someone facing terminal illness or their loved ones? I know I have. I know I will. Reading these poems won’t change that, but it affirms their power –

all I can do today
 is write
 these few words

The words are treated with due respect, by both poet and publisher in these pages. Like the days, the pages go by without number, each with their own highlights, their own atmosphere

One reality of any project around cancer care is that people die. It may be tempting for an author to duck this, to adjust his focus elsewhere, to direct the reader to feeling better, to take their mind away from the ubiquitous taboo. Finlay’s gift is to offer the pill as bitter as it is, with compassion to help it down

it’s the way she
 holds me that
 tells me

there’s one sleep
 for each of us
 with a dream
 and no dawn

The death which is so unambiguously faced is of course the result of illness. The condition of illness, its treatment and the impact on sufferers and those around them will come to most of us in one way or another. In the environment of today today today, that illness can be intense and prolonged. As with its conclusion, illness in today today today is not maltreated by understatement, by ignorance or by the flimsy wallpaper which I know I’ve been guilty of applying to a crack so visceral as to become part of the wall

you go on
 for me

today I can go
 no further

the thing about weakness is
 how strong it is

Which brings us to the first and last, to the only theme there is, the truth which gives the pamphlet its title. Today is all we ever have. Yesterday will never come back, and Finlay does not allude to it. Tomorrow is a dream, and it does crop up from time to time, but from the beginning

each of us
 has only
 today

to the end

today
 there are
 no words

the words, the poems are set entirely in the present – in the today which is all we ever have, all we can ever truly rely on.

Alec Finlay’s gifts help those in need of succour, who’s worlds have been turned upside down. Thanks to Playspace Publications, you can receive them today today today

Christie Williamson

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