white cover with old photos and black 'tape' criss crossing effect on topI’d Better Let You Go, Nikki Dudley

Beir Bua Press, 2021    £5.99

An experimental poet’s view of dementia

This honest, open, and experimental pamphlet outlines the poet’s grandmother’s decline with dementia. It is a satisfying balance of elegy, creative form, and exploration. It is the use of concrete poetry, black out, prose poetry, OuLiPo and other such forms that makes this pamphlet stand out.

It is as if the peculiar nature of the disease is more vividly brought to life using more creative poetics.

In ‘Your Last Birthday’ the use of black out within the prosaic dialogue reflects the lived experience of someone with dementia,

‘Come on, Nan. Vvv will be here soon’
Xxx was working in Barnet

In ‘The Night Carer’, a prose poem, we are reminded of the essential, and sometimes invisible, anchors in a patient’s day to day life that close family may not see. As the narrator goes to introduce herself to her grandma’s carer:

‘I know who you are,’ she interrupted. The night carer turned to all of us and said our names in turn. She’d never met us but she got all of them right, then added some details she knew about all of us.

‘She talked about you all night long,’ she added.

‘Unapproved Script’ is a piece that plays with font size and orientation to illustrate first-hand the confusion, disorientation and ‘off script’ uncontrollable nature of the condition.

In the penultimate poem called ‘Greenie’ (the poet’s grandma’s name) we are left knowing that

Now all the colours are gone.

I found this a touching and uniquely creative pamphlet. It’s a beautiful elegy, and we are left with a clear vision of Greenie, her life, and her love for her family. We also get a sense of her self-effacing ways, so succinctly summed up in the book’s title, I’d better let you go.

Jane Thomas