2013 marks Dannie Abse's 90th birthday. In his lifetime he has published an astonishing array of work including poetry, fiction, criticism, plays and autobiography but it is as a poet that he is best known and loved.
In Speak, Old Parrot he returns to themes of loss, love, medicine and its moral implications, the nature of creativity, Jewish folk tradition and the passing of time. The poems are observant of the outside world as well as the inner life and emotions but most of all they are a joy to read.
What's the best thing about judging the Forward prizes? Free books? Reassessing a poet you hadn't paid enough attention to? Those are good, but the best might be the poems, and odd lines, that stick in your head. They may be from books that didn't even make the shortlist, but they've still made a mark – Dannie Abse's line "Men become mortal when their fathers die" from his collection Speak, Old Parrot, isn't going to leave me any time soon.
The phenomenal Dr Abse still prescribes verbal wit and human warmth, radiant memory and blazing perception, as remedies against a time of life when "all pavements slope uphill". This veteran flyer can still sing and swoop.
Dannie Abse's line "Men become mortal when their fathers die" from his collection Speak, Old Parrot, isn't going to leave me any time soon.
It’s a book packed with both feeling and swagger, a tumbling energy that belies the closing farewell.
There is much that could be said about this inspiring collection, and all of it positive. It should be bought, read and re-read.