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Review: Indelible, Miraculous, by Julia Darling

Gina Wilson, the North, August 2016, No.56

Indelible Miraculous, the collected poems of Julia Darling, was published in 2015, ten years after she died of breast cancer, following her diagnosis in 1994. It was compiled by editor Bev Robinson, Darling's lifelong partner, whose preface leaves little doubt as to what to expect: 'When I was selecting...I could almost hear the poems being performed and was transported back to rooms full of laughter'.
Darling's simple style makes the poems instantly accessible; the exactitude and placing of 'busy' and 'beautifully' strike home.
This gift - uncomplicated syntax plus apt vocabulary, perfectly placed - is a hallmark of Darling's writing. So is humour. In the midst of sickness, she can find brightness, however, fleeting: 'Be big, right up until the end. Don't pull down the blind. / Put on a crazy hat you bought in Spain. And shine' ('How to Frighten Cancer').
Sometimes, in the titles themselves, you catch Darling's bravery in action, her refusal to sink: 'Things That Should Never Have Happened', 'Recipe for a Curative Soup', When I was Healthy Things were Often Yellow'.
In other poems, there is an unshrinking look at the pain of her decline.
There is life in Darling's finely observed details of sight and sound.