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The Grieve Writing Project is facilitated by the Hunter Writers Centre, and offers people an opportunity to write a poem or short story about their experience of loss and grief. Around 120 pieces are selected for publication each year in the Grieve Anthology, with the readings and awards held in August, Grief Awareness Month in Australia. Last year I responded to their submission call and one of my poems was included in the e-version of the book.

We all experience loss at one time or another; some more than others and at varying degrees. I lost my Dad to cancer in 2007 (it’s a funny expression, as if I’ve been trying to find him since). His death was sudden, somewhat unusual with cancer – primary in the bowel and secondary in the liver, which was ironic considering he was in a bowel-screening program. My Dad was a beautiful man and his going so soon hit me hard, as it did other members of my family. So my poem was about him; I’ll share it here:




you’ve gone Dad, I’m arranging a new one

mending myself to you piece by fabricated piece.


I begin with your feet, position your once white

trainers so you’re surveying the back garden


what to trim and weed. Next, the grass-stained

paint-splattered jeans you wore at weekends


to do odd jobs around the house, which always

took you longer than planned. To finish, a red


sweater that hints of you, even now. All you

need is a little life. Closing the wardrobe


I swear I see your foot twitch, picture you smiling

at me like the last time I saw you, which I knew


would be the last. I tie your laces, just in case.

Copyright © J V Birch 2018


The anthology is an emotive read of fearless writing – poems and stories of grief and loss from authors who, from their own painful experiences, have bravely revisited and crafted them to share an amazing variety of pieces. It’s the kind of read that can overwhelm if not prepared; it left me with a profound sense of connection.

And I’ll leave you with one of my favourites by Rachael Mead, an extremely talented poet and very good friend, whose poem won the National Association of Loss and Grief (NALAG) Award:




Three days without power and the only sounds

are wind, rain and the hiss of flame beneath the kettle.


I don’t mind. Quiet is the road blocked by tree-fall,

reminding us that electricity is not the fifth element.


I am reading on the couch when our neighbour

knocks.                      Tom has died, she says.


It’s the final erasure of that disease, the one

that eventually steals everything, from his last


conversation to the memory of his wife of 60 years.

She is strong but after she leaves the grey air


seems especially sad and even a little jagged.

The world is not what we want. Our minds,


those tender, playful muscles stiffen and seize,

however hard we work at making ourselves


original. Beyond the glass, the green earth

blurs with rain, the trees bend and crack


in allegories of wind.            My heart folds

and folds itself down into a tiny yet infinitely


dense thing: a grain of sand, a mote of dust,

a faraway star we all know full well is dead.

Copyright © Rachael Mead 2017

This is a beautiful collection, in which some thirty-one poets share their work

‘to celebrate elephants in the hope that people will find a way to safeguard those that manage to remain.’

Elephants are a multitude of things to many. In here they are muse; inspirational beings to be treasured, protected, respected, admired. But on these pages, there is also grief, fear and anger over the destruction of their habitat and the poaching of their ivory. I will never forget an image I saw of an elephant whose face had literally been sliced off for its tusks. How anyone can commit such an atrocity is beyond human capacity, and yet not it seems.

The proceeds from this anthology help orphan elephants via The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, which runs the most successful orphan-elephant rescue and rehabilitation program in the world.  And I will leave you with a poem by Valerie Morton, who is also the publisher, as well as one of the many fine poets featured.


The Elephant on my Mantlepiece

(after Salvador Dali)


floats on spidery, footless legs

of desire, its body



a heavy burden, tottering as if

the world could fall

into the sand


or float away into the thin air

of temptation



straining to carry the world’s sin,

shackled only by gravity –

a reminder


that without the uncertain nature

of survival, man’s lust

and greed


will end its very existence.


I received my copies recently, and I’m thrilled to be sharing the pages with so many amazing poets and their poems!

Edited by Rachel Piercey and Emma Wright, this anthology is one of many exquisitely produced books from The Emma Press.  Founded by Emma and based in Birmingham, UK, this is an award-winning press, scooping the Publishers’ Awards at the Michael Marks Awards for Poetry Pamphlets in 2016.  What I particularly love about The Emma Press are their themed submission calls on a variety of topics to inspire and create those all-important words. Their motto is “small press, big dreams”, which they make true and then some.

Contributors to this anthology include Carole Bromley, Angela Kirby, Gill McEvoy and Anna Woodford, alongside brilliant new voices, sharing poems about all types of aunties:

the trail-blazing, advice-giving, feast-cooking, fast-chatting, music-loving, gift-giving, high-kicking

so eloquently summed up by Rachel in the introduction. It’s a collection to make you smile.

And a copy is winging its way across the miles to my beautiful nephew as we speak, so he can read the poem about him penned by his auntie 😊