Bloodaxe to publish Helen Dunmore's last poem

Bloodaxe to publish Helen Dunmore's last poem

Bloodaxe Books is publishing a poem Helen Dunmore wrote in the final days before she died.

The verse addresses death, and is called "Hold out your arms".

Dunmore, a prize-winning novelist, poet and children's author, passed away on Monday (5th June) after revealing her cancer diagnosis in March. 

She sent Bloodaxe Books publisher Neil Astley the poem the day after she wrote it on her phone on 25th May. According to Astley, he had first written to Dunmore to inform her about the forthcoming reprint of her latest collection of poetry, Inside the Wave, when she responded by sending him the poem she had written the day before.

The poem was first published online by the Guardian. In it, Dunmore likens herself to a child in the poem and asks for death's "motherly caress", describing its scent "Sherbet, pure iris/ Lovely and intricate". 

The first stanza reads:

Death, hold out your arms for me
Embrace me
Give me your motherly caress,
Through all this suffering
You have not forgotten me.​

Astley described the poeam as "truly wonderful" and said he was not surprised Dunmore was still writing weeks before her death, calling her "a writer to the end".

"Helen was adding further poems to the collection last autumn written in response to her illness, and we had thought it was complete when it went to press in February," he said. "But she was a writer to the end, so it wasn’t surprising in a way that there was this other poem she wanted to write as a kind of leave-taking."

The second printing of Inside the Wave - including this poem, which will be added to the end of the collection - will be available in roughly 10 days' time.