Forthright words with feeling and honesty

Poetry review by Andrew Mosley: A Small Goodbye At Dawn by Gill Lambert Yaffle Press (

Poetry review by Andrew Mosley:

A Small Goodbye At Dawn by Gill Lambert

Yaffle Press (

THE silencing of desperate voices is a theme we can all relate to in Rotherham — and it’s been going on since the beginning of time.

Anne Boleyn’s story, which unravelled almost 500 years ago, is a complicated one, which, just like the CSE scandal that hit this town, saw the voice of the victim, a woman, not only silenced, but turned into that of a criminal.

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In this, her second collection, Yorkshire’s Gill Lambert — I was in the same English Literature A-level group as her at school (she was way brighter than me) — cleverly weaves Anne’s story with her own and those of other women over the centuries.

We start with Shakespeare’s Cordelia — some were listening in that English class — in the haunting, chilling opener Namak (”She remembers again, Cordelia — her nothing but how she loved her father. How her father loved her, gave her away, like salt”).

It’s a strong opener and what follows doesn’t disappoint.

Gillian, who runs regular poetry workshops, moves seamlessly between verses displaying power, weakness, vulnerability, strength, grit and beauty.

From “Your name is a nail, washed down with beck-silt and the weeds take root” to  “and it (the snow) carried on falling layer on layer covering up what I’d done”, there’s a depth and richness in her use of imagery.

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The Anne Boleyn poems shine a light on those moments where, yes, life feels as good as it gets but there’s an inevitability, always an inevitability that it’s only temporary — “I know this comfort cannot last forever. I know I’m but a vessel for his son.”

There are many other women’s voices too, their words formed sometimes in the moment of what was happening to them and often framed by memory — in many cases of what went unsaid at the time.

All through this collection it’s Lambert’s distinctive voice that speaks loudest though, whatever the emotion that needs to be expressed.

Twelfth of September 2001, Cala Romantica, Mallorca and Silent All These Years almost extinguish the light completely but there’s hope in For Whoever (“And it hurts, this peeling back the skin of winter, though I feel a guilty pleasure; glad to be exposed”) and Painting-by-Numbers (“’ve filled all the spaces with different colours. It’s beautiful; you can hardly believe you have made it. I think you should frame it”).

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If you like your poetry forthright, written with feeling, honesty and without pandering to any particular audience or trend, then this passionate, defiant collection, which fuses the fate of women — from Anne Boleyn to Olga Korbut and Shamima Begum — throughout history will prove thought-provoking, insightful and, never to be forgotten, entertaining at the same time.

* A Small Goodbye At Dawn is available from


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