The poems in Apology for Absence crackle with joy in living and loving; joy in the vivid, weird complicated stage-set that is ordinary life: 'I love the smell of my daughters reading... / The downy light touches their heads,/ their bodies untangle on the long red sofa/ they have forgotten mirrors, clothes, tomorrow.'
Their voice is confidently surreal, lunging out imaginatively to the world. 'My Thumb in Leeds', for instance, celebrates a day out: 'My thumb is on holiday.../ It flicks the remote, orders room service,// It rides in my pocket. It's pink, / enthusiastic. My thumb takes photographs.'
These supple poems, love poems to daughters, lover, the world and its scurrying inhabitants, the 'Mambo beat' of the salsa class, are the more miraculous because they are also all about dying.
Julia Darling had cancer for ten years. The surreal optimism and honest, generous voice of her weblog moved and welcomed everyone who read it. Bright yellow, swollen, bald, witty and determined, she got out of bed for the first night of her latest play two weeks before she died. That thumb on its holiday 'touches sculptures' in the art gallery and 'resolves to take up painting', but also 'touches clothes/ on rails in Harvey Nichols' and sighs: 'It carries the cases home, grips on tight./ That's all a thumb can do. Hold on.'
No sentimental self-pity: amused, inquisitive and graceful, these poems are …