The Book of Love & Loss – Cambridge Launch

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A big thank-you to everyone who participated in the Cambridge launch of The Book of Love & Loss on 23rd April 2015 – co-editor June Hall, the contributors who read from their work in the anthology, Patricia Oxley MBE, editor of Acumen, who has done much to support this publication, and everyone who came to listen on the night. Poems from the anthology were read by June herself, William Oxley, Pat Perry, David Thear, Martyn Crucefix, Wendy French, Sue Boyle and myself.

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Thanks also go to Jo Wilson for photographing the event, Harriet Burgham for helping with its organisation, Heffers Bookshop for kindly staging it, and also to Cambridge News for covering the launch of the book in their issue of 25th April. We reprint the article below.

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From Cambridge News, Saturday 25th April 2015

Jonathan Steffen was born in London and read English at Cambridge. A poet and singer-songwriter, he lived in Cambridge’s partner city Heidelberg for 16 years and taught at Heidelberg University. He now lives in Cambridge again, where he works as a freelance author and editor.

We all lose the people we love. Whether to illness or accident, whether by chance or as the final step of a slowly unfolding tragedy, we will all lose our nearest and dearest at some time, in some way, for some reason – unless we die first, and become lost to them.

Loss unites all individuals across all times and cultures.

And yet, in our highly secularised and pluralistic society, we have ever fewer shared rituals for dealing with it. We observe depictions of death continually on our screens, yet we often struggle for words to describe our own experience of loss. This is the context for the publication of a new anthology of poems, The Book of Love & Loss.

Bringing together the work of 197 contemporary poets, The Book of Love & Loss is described by Maureen Lipman in her introduction to the volume as “a pace-maker for the broken heart.”

Well-known names such as Carol Ann Duffy, Andrew Motion and Gillian Clarke feature here.

So does the writing of lesser known poets. Fifty pence from the sale of each volume goes to Parkinson’s Research.

The link with Parkinson’s Research has a particular poignancy, for co-editor June Hall was herself diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease some time ago. June’s mother, who died recently, donated her own brain to the John van Geest Centre for Brain Repair at Cambridge University School of Medicine to further the cause of research into this condition.

Some two years ago, when The Book of Love & Loss was in the planning, I was invited to submit some poems to the editors for consideration.

I sent in a small handful of titles and was fortunate enough to have three of them selected for publication.

One is about the experience of seeing my father’s corpse laid out in the chapel of rest before his funeral:

“It seems I have the hardest part to play /And shall be glad when this last act Is through. /And timelessly the seconds slip away …”

The second is a tribute to the dog with which I grew up:

“Under my hand you hurtle, silken and fangsoft, / Bright brindle boxer, deliriously dewlapped, / Playing the predator, playing the prey, Seeking the certainty of another again …”

The third is about grief itself:

“I do not think that there is a colour for grief … It is like weeping with every pore of your body. It is like freezing all the way / From the centre of your heart / To the furthest edges of the universe …”

It is a great honour to see my work in this milestone publication. I hope that whoever reads The Book of Love & Loss will find, somewhere in its pages, a heart that understands their own, and a voice that articulates what they perhaps cannot say themselves.

The Book of Love & Loss edited by R.V. Bailey and June Hall is published in hardback by Belgrave Press, priced £12.99.

The editors are pleased to announce that 1,500 copies of the initial print run of 2,500 have been sold to date, and £1,000 raised so far for Parkinson’s Research.

All photographs ©Jo Wilson


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