This poem was featured in The Guardian’s poetry workshop back in 2007, and I thought I would include it here in case their page went dark.
Here is the workshop leader’s (poet John Hartley Williams) comment:
Bleak yet cheerful. I especially enjoyed the opening two lines. It’s not at all certain whether mother is committing suicide or rashly checking on dinner and the fact that father’s ghost is “entombed in broadsheets” unleashes a satirical donkey-kick at domestic arrangements. The poem lost momentum a bit in the last stanza – a phrase like “penultimate stage of life” needs a steam-winch to heave it into position, and the mere swirl of alcohol seemed too easy a conclusion; I’d have preferred something more explosive.
Yet I still like what “penultimate stage of life” is doing in this poem: for me, the shuddering but momentary halt to the rhythm (before father downs the last gulp of the highball) that those seven syllables force upon the reader leave me wondering, even now, about what the spectral father would (or could) do next.
To see other poems in the same workshop (which, among other things, required you to “mess with” a proverb, click here.
The Guardian’s Poetry Workshop series ended its run in 2011. I still miss it.