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Anna’s story: Darling by Jackie Kay Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Posted by carryapoem in Stories.
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I first heard it when Jackie Kay read ‘Darling’, a poem written for her friend Julia Darling, at the Wigtown Book Festival, a couple of years ago now I think.

It moved me because when I was newly diagnosed with breast cancer Julia Darling was dying from it and she was blogging about her treatment with amazing insight and honesty and I followed her posts. http://www.juliadarling.co.uk/firstaid.html

And when she became totally bedfast I sent her some photographs of newly fallen snow, and despite everything she e-mailed back to say thanks.

She also produced something called “First Aid Kit for the Mind”  It included her “cancer poems” and her friend’s paintings, with all sorts of other wee bits and bobs, like a tiny piece of painted sky to take into hospital with you. I bought one of the kits after her death and it inspired a show that some friends and I did here in Haddington for Cancer Research. We got all sorts of people who don’t usually listen to poetry to come along and hear us. It was very well received and we enjoyed doing it much more than running a marathon.

Now the poem reminds me of a wonderfully generous and talented woman and that there can be comfort at the end of life.

I have the poem in my head, though I don’t trust my memory much post chemo and I have a link to it here: http://www.diamondtwig.co.uk/poems/darling.html

I have another one too! Denise Levertov’s, ‘Ache of Marriage’. I have loved this poem for years and have it in The Bloodaxe Book of Contemporary Women Poets, which lives in the heap of well-thumbed, much-loved books by my bed and use a photo copy of it as a book mark in my notebook.

I like it because of its amazing compression – just thirteen lines to fully capture a subject like marriage. I’ve been married 30 years this year and believe me you feel  like a campaign medal should be struck!

And that line, “two by two in the ark of the ache of it” is just genius.

Anna Dickie is a photographer and a poet, and regularly attends the School of Poets here at the Scottish Poetry Library. She blogs here.