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Apology for Absence

Julia’s second and final collection, Apology For Absence looks at the world beyond the hospital, although still from the viewpoint of a cancer patient in the advanced stages of the illness.

Apology For Absence was completed little over a year after Sudden Collapses in Public Places. The themes are familiar, but here she writes with a wider perspective, a deeper understanding, which reach out to the heart of the human condition and the greater mysteries of life, albeit in an understated way. This is a powerful and deeply affecting book, completely unsentimental yet charged with emotion – indeed, one of those rare books that have a profound and lasting effect.

The book’s editor Jo Shapcott wrote: ‘Julia Darling is writing at the height of her powers in this new book of poetry. She has the astonishing ability to dive into that other world of metaphor and vision and to surface with just the right image to express vividly the complex emotional sphere in which she works. Here are poems about chronic illness, friends, daughters, about the fragile beauty of what we have, about dying, but above all about living.’

Extracts from the book

'Moving to the Country' →

Moving to the Country
(Featured as the Guardian‘s Saturday Poem on 24th November 2004)

We are always looking at for sale signs
down leafy lanes, imagining ourselves
freed from sirens, the clank of the city.
We try to see ourselves in fields
with large deep freezes, happily
wearing floppy hats, with secateurs.
We hope that we would fit in,
with our urban graces, our town shoes,
though the village people scowl
and have thick fingers, hang dead birds
from barbed wire fences.
We would try to trust the animals
who seem so furious and dim.
We would ignore the crows
that arrange themselves like omens.
We always end up driving home, relieved
full of scone, saying we would miss the cinema.

Critical Praise

  • "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 ... Their voice is confidently surreal, lunging out imaginatively to the world."

    —Ruth Padel, The Independent
  • "Bittersweet is what this collection does, pretty well perfectly, the kind of writing which restores your faith in poetry, and all its glory"

    —Orbis 133