no one mourns their breath in winter / though you watch the essence of you / escaping…
When this book was published in 2019, Greg Gilbert was in the middle of treatment for Stage 4 bowel cancer with secondary lung cancer. He was a writer, artist and musician, and the father of two young girls. He was known to me as the lead singer of the band Delays.
I’ve avoided this pamphlet for a while, because I knew how the story ended: Greg passed away in September 2021, aged 44. The subject within, therefore, has never been something I’d wanted to explore, but having lost more than one friend unexpectedly in the last few years… It was time. Love Makes a Mess of Dying, therefore, is the poem that will stick with me forever.
Lessons from the Text
I’m not gonna lie: this was a REALLY tough read, especially Blue Draped Cube and ‘Parent’ is a Petrol Blue Word. Listening to someone else grappling with their mortality is not what I think a lot of us would consider enjoyable, but it is both essential and inescapable. Only by listening to the stories of others do we fully learn the nuances of our own existence.
However, this is a really uplifting and significant set of poems: it takes you through chemo, the stories in and out of hospital, and how life still goes on regardless of the personal trauma around us. It helps a lot, too, that Greg’s musical and artistic sensibilities are ingrained in every word of the pamphlet. As an epitaph for Gilbert’s superlative talent, it provides on every single page.
The point of Sealey is to challenge yourself, to step away from what we’d normally read and reassess our mindset. This is a tiny pamphlet, but packs such a massive, irrefutable punch. I wish I was as capable of this in trauma, to write with such eloquence and urgency. I never got why that word gets thrown around in pamphlet blurbs before… now I do. When you know time is short, the rules change forever.
Will you read it again? Not only will I read it, I’ll very strongly suggest everyone else does so too. Death is a part of life. Nobody escapes the call. As writers, we hope to be remembered past it, and Greg’s work has done that for me, and more.
Would you recommend it for me to read? Be warned, this is a difficult ask in places. However, I REALLY suggest persisting. I can see myself coming back to this a lot in the future, especially for support and remembrance.