Five Leaves, 2006 - £5.00


It was early morning when I started reading Still Breathing. Suddenly, a hot air balloon rose from the willows, drifted over the broad. Gas hissed, people waved. Later England would lose to Portugal on penalties and I would be reminded that on an early morning 90 years ago whistles blew, and by nightfall almost 20,000 British soldiers had fallen on the Somme. And I kept remembering Grindrod’s words from ‘Straight Talking’: 

If there’s anything we can do.


    The poet explores her relationship with her father through his illness and death. I feared being excluded but soon felt I knew the dapper tailor, who wore his “Tie knotted even to tea”, now  “putting on the woollen glove,/ unable to separate the fingers.”

    In ‘Holding On’, I walked with Cathy through the hospital to the bed where “We are all reduced to hand-squeezing./ My mother, for love,/ my sister for diagnosis,/ my brother for wanting to do it right./ Me, for everything.” And from there, onwards to when she appeals: 

Dad, go now, this clear white day.

Find your walking shoes,

a cairn to add a final pebble to,

clean wind to whip your breath away. 

This is a poet who uses simple language to convey a myriad of painful emotions: “I practised it now and then, quietly:/ My father has died—/ to see how it was”.

    The next day, my cousin, John Frederick, lost his fight with spinal cancer—aged 44, a wife, two sons. 

          If there’s anything we can do.


Sue Butler


The Common Reader says of Still Breathing by Cathy Grindrod: This chapbook could easily have become an over-sentimental, maudlin collection about the death of the writer’s father. It is described by Grindrod in the acknowledgments as a sequence and that’s exactly what it is—the sequence of illness, death, a funeral and grief. Of course it was sad, and painfully so, but I don’t think a collection such as this is written to be enjoyed, though it can be respected as an honest response to losing someone dear. I found ‘Holding On’ the most moving, where communication is reduced to squeezing of hands: I loved the honesty of it all because that’s how we communicate with the almost gone ●