Sentenced to Life
I never expected to see Sentenced to Life published in my time. I didn't even expect that there would be enough poems to fill a thin pamphlet. When I got sick in 2010, I wrote some poems while I lay in hospital in either Cambridge or New York -- a few of those poems were done in time for the publication of Nefertiti in the Flak Tower -- but when I got out of hospital I thought that my energy would keep on draining away; and to complete a poem takes plenty of energy. When its first fragments arrive in your head like benevolent shrapnel, they demand to be assembled: and the process is the mental equivalent of heavy lifting. It's a big ask if you aren't breathing properly. But time went by, I was breathing better, and the drugs got on top of my ailments; so there was no excuse to down tools. Besides, I had too many ideas. Most of the results went into the section still marked Recent Poems, but from that section I have now subtracted the poems that went to form this book, and mounted them here instead, under the heading Extracts. Also there are some of the reviews that the book has already attracted at the time of its publication. (It became, I'm glad to say, the No 1 book on Amazon.co.uk's Poetry list even before it was published.) I have been careful to include any literate review even if luke-warm, although there was one effort I felt justified in leaving out because its author is such a vulgarian that his praise hurts worse than his blame. In these and all other respects -- links to the relevant broadcasts are here too -- I shall try to make this page the gateway to a complete record of what might well be my last book of poems, although I am informed by some commentators, apparently well qualified in medicine, that my version of leukaemia is no great thing, and that I might live forever. I would dearly like to, so as to get a few more things written: but wishful thinking is no more wise for being ambitious, and as I write I am back on chemo for keeps. Well, it's another subject for verse. Meanwhile, as I write, the gratifying ripples raised by this little book continue to spread. I would be churlish not to enjoy the fuss.