Poetry Review: Talking To The Dead by Elaine Feinstein


Talking To The Dead by Elaine Feinstein
Carcanet Press (ebook), 2011
75 Pages

Poet’s Website

Amazon (UK)


Opening with a death in winter, this is a tender work of mourning which is wonderfully moving but never dispiriting. Elaine Feinstein uses the remembered words of a much-loved husband – sometimes affectionate, sometimes querulous – to invoke his solid presence; it is the man rather than her grief which is the centre of the book. Many lyrics recall the closeness of their last months together; others confess the ambivalence of a long marriage. Theirs was never an easy relationship, and she is not afraid to register the differences between them. With wry humour, she questions her own life before their meeting, and looks steadily at a future without him. As she imagines that future, she confronts the myths of an afterlife, a belief in God, her debts to other poets and her dependence on friends and children. Always in complete control of rhythm and tone, these beautiful lyrics explore the most intimate thoughts with a clarity and tenacity Ted Hughes once described as ‘unique’. It is Elaine Feinstein’s most passionate book of poetry.


The clock’s gone back. The shop lights spill
Over the wet street, these broken streaks
Of traffic signals and white headlight fill
The afternoon. My thoughts are bleak.

Talking to the Dead is the second collection I’ve read by the poet. I read her collection Cities recently and really enjoyed it.

Talking to the Dead is a collection of poems that examine the poet’s grief. Feinstein recalls memories of her late husband, her life before marriage and contemplates what life will be like as a widow. Given the rather bleak subject matter, I expected the poems to be quite sad and was pleasantly surprised to discover this wasn’t the case. The poems are sad and moving but manage to steer clear of being overly melancholy. Talking to the Dead is more a celebration of love and a life together than anything else. I was very moved by the poems in this collection. I have a few favourites; Winter, Home, A Visit, Beds, Rain, Another Anniversary, A Pebble On Your Grave, January Trees, Marriage and At the Heart of This Black World.

Talking to the Dead is a very touching collection of poems. I’d highly recommended it.

Poems included:

  • Winter:
  • Bremerhaven:
  • Home
  • A Visit
  • Hands
  • Beds
  • Unsent Email
  • Mackintosh
  • Fox
  • Moving House
  • Stuff
  • Rain
  • Hubble
  • Immortality
  • A Match
  • Skin
  • Flame
  • Another Anniversary
  • A Pebble On Your Grave
  • Widow’s Necklace
  • Father And Son: A Dream
  • Guernica
  • Folk Song
  • Wittgenstein
  • Afghan
  • Restart
  • Variation On An Akhmatova Poem
  • January Trees
  • Marriage
  • Rosemary In Provence
  • Lazarus’s Sister
  • Lisson Grove
  • Separations
  • Bonds
  • Wheelchair
  • Living Room
  • Perugia
  • Old Poets
  • Letter To Ezra Pound
  • Common Sense
  • Seder
  • Scattering
  • Bruges
  • At The Heart Of This Black World
  • Night Thoughts
  • London




One Comment Add yours

  1. This sounds beautiful! I’d never heard of Elaine Feinstein before.

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