Steve Whitaker, Literary Correspondent

Poem Of The Week: ‘Afterlife’ By Faith Lawrence

Faith Lawrence
Faith Lawrence
Manchester-based poet and radio programme-maker Faith Lawrence’s fine poem finds an ‘afterlife’ for her visitants in the form of commemoration. Her afterlife is entirely secular, restorative, locating the dead in a tableau of distant memory where the quotidian furniture of the seaside is recognised insouciantly by the revellers and bathers. Remote from the viewer – the poem is profoundly pictorial – the inventories of the day tripper and holidaymaker imagination pin the past in the slap and tickle of postwar release. The celebrants are off the leash, and stuck, like Philip Larkin’s steamer, in an eternally sunny afternoon.

Caught off-guard, the throng are as naturally disposed as the protagonists in a Martin Parr photograph. And they are as pinioned to the era of their depiction as rationing: the ‘flowery bathing caps’ and toothless smiles are, respectively, brash and calcium-free.

Afterlife

Heaven is a lido on the coast
where the dead are playing catch
in swimming costumes
and flowery bathing caps;
everyone’s losing their teeth
but they seem to be loving it.

Look at the lunches they bring:
ham sandwiches and crisps,
fruit and sponge cake for afters.
Hear them laughing on the sand,
the waves hushing their rumours
as they glide beneath the water.


And yet a sadness inheres to Lawrence’s beautifully-realised image: the revellers are fixed forever in this celluloidal aspic, until the tide returns in the concluding lines, and the laughter and merriment, the cornucopia of vibrant experience, is submerged forever.

‘Afterlife’ is taken from Sleeping Through and is published by smith ǀ doorstop
More information here: http://www.poetrybusiness.co.uk/shop/1005/laureates-choice-sleeping-through-lawrence