Pauline Rowe’s new pamphlet, The Weight of Snow, is layered with generations of grief. The accidental death of a ten-year-old girl years ago affects the narrator’s life, and those of her family. The poems cleverly interweave the narrator’s past life, loves and losses against the backdrop of this tragedy, outlined starkly in 'A Letter to Nanna Bereaved':
The old man writes:
Even now I see her pennies
spinning in the road.
Yet in this elegiac pamphlet there is also hope and redemption. In contrast to the 'silver anniversary of grief' for a son never born, we are given 'Delivery Room'; joy in the face of the pain and danger of imminent birth, where the bereaved 'Nanna' appears:
and yet reach heaven, reach my lovely girl.
Pray hard that God may grant me my release.'
my glorious boy arrived, my peaceful son.
There is also a parade of sharply drawn characters that bring working-class Widnes to life, as in 'Barnes Road, 1967': Wendy, who 'kept PG Tips cards / and badges from Robinson jam,' and Billy the lodger who 'blocked the hall / with his deafness and Triumph bike.' But the permafrost of these poems is never far away. Even in the poem celebrating a fifty-year old friend’s marriage in Spain, there is unfulfilled yearning to follow those 'whose souls must sing in the sun.'
Pauline Rowe has created a beautiful and memorable tribute to the collective grief of a family marked by tragedy, a grief that many will recognise in different forms.
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