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A distinguished poet's moving memoir of his wife who died in a car accident in 2005.


Loss, grief and love are the themes of this remarkable memoir from one of Britain’s most distinguished poets.

Some months after Dannie Abse’s wife Joan died in a car accident in June 2005, he began to write a diary which is both a record of present grief and a portrait of marriage which lasted more than fifty years. It is an extraordinary document, painful but celebratory; funny as well as sad, bursting with joy as well as sorrow and full of a deep understanding of what it means to be human.


Abse's diary is a remarkable and tender document

Sunday Times

For all its painful honesty, [this is] a surprisingly joyful and compelling book... Imbued with all the best qualities of what it means to human and in love

Independent on Sunday

The Presence is a fragment of autobiography written from the most private part of a poet's heart, with a pen dipped in blood and tears. That it transcends this to become both elegiac and celebratory, to inhabit both the suffered present and the beloved past, places it almost beyond the scope of routine criticism.

Daily Telegraph

Hauntingly poignant... One hopes that he comes before long to share the happiness this wise, funny, heart rending little book brings to its readers

Daily Telegraph

Full of memorable images... As Abse performs the strange and also strangely valuable work of mourning, he offers, with The Presence, wit and balm

Financial Times

Elegy and eulogy, full of kindness and understanding of our common vulnerablility, this lovely book is a very rich boon

The Times

A supremely fresh and vital performance, matching profound emotion with witty observation... This is a truly marvellous book


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Formats & editions

  • Paperback


    November 15, 2008


    288 pages

    RRP $29.99

    Online retailers

    • Abbey's Bookshop
    • Angus & Robertson Bookworld
    • Booktopia
    • Boomerang Books
    • Collins Booksellers
    • Dymocks
    • Books Kinokuniya
    • The Nile
    • QBD
    • Readings
    • Robinsons Bookshop

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

Also by Dannie Abse

Ask the Moon
Speak, Old Parrot
Two for Joy
New Selected Poems
Running Late
New And Collected Poems
Goodbye, Twentieth Century


When Breath Becomes Air
Talking As Fast As I Can
The Princess Diarist
Finding My Virginity
Bon: The Last Highway
Talking to My Daughter About the Economy
The Boy Behind the Curtain
Option B
Everything to Live For
The House on the Hill
You Can't Spell America Without Me: The Really Tremendous Inside Story of My Fantastic First Year as President Donald J. Trump (A So-Called Parody)
Lion: A Long Way Home
Young Hitler
The First Casualty
Not Your Average Nurse
The Fair and the Foul
The Man Who Climbs Trees
LGB I'm A Ballerina!