Wednesday 22 March 2023

Merryn Williams, "After Hastings"


Merryn Williams lives in Oxford, and After Hastings (Shoestring Press, 2023) is her sixth volume of poetry. She worked hard for Labour in the last election and, during the pandemic, collected the best Covid poems she could find and published them as Poems for the Year 2020: Eighty Poets on the Pandemic (Shoestring Press).

About After Hastings, By Merryn Williams

My book is a short one - more a poetry pamphlet really. All the poems are short, but they cover such things as Covid, deaths and a divorce in my family, and the state of the world. Hastings is where I grew up and the title poem is of course about the threat to the planet:

After Hastings

Some of Hastings has toppled into the sea.
This time, the giant rock killed no one, but
fast-forward to another century
and people will abscond, their doors will shut,
the gracious Georgian terraces, the beach huts
be drowned, the crumbling castle overhead
collapse, the famous caves fill with salt water.
It might reach my old home, but I'll be dead,
the cliffs, like Robert Tressell's murals, gone,
and none look down on Hastings, except the moon.

The book is dedicated to the memory of the poet Ruth Bidgood - a dear friend and a Wren during the war, which explains why she didn't like the sea. I miss it! Here is another short poem about her:


          (for Ruth Bidgood)

I learned of your death in a crowded seafront cafe
between trains, casually flicking through my smartphone
as everyone does. I should have expected this news
but hadn't. You'd not have felt at home in this place,

distrusting the sea, turning back to the mountains. So
I went for a last look, and spent a half hour counting
the waves, remembering how I'd watched them crashing
off Hengistbury Head, on the actual day you died.

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