A review of ‘Emergence’

Charlotte Squires is the BGS Digital Media Editor and host of #geribookclub, in addition to working as a specialist trainee in geriatric medicine. She tweets from @charsquires.

I was delighted and intrigued when I first heard about Emergence, an anthology of prose and poetry related to ageing, all nominated by clinicians working with older adults in Ireland. I have a bookshelf full of anthologies on other themes including love, animals, women, and even stress (the latter a tactical gift when I was preparing for MRCP) but have never come across a book that so closely aligned with my interest in how we age.

There are several things I love about this anthology. The first is that it considers ageing over the lifespan, meaning that different entries have voices, or emphasis on people at different stages of their lives. I went into geriatric medicine because I was interested in caring for people in their later years but am increasingly learning that we can only care for this group by tackling social issues much earlier on, and that people’s histories over decades remain relevant years later. Ageing is not just about the already old, after all.

I also love that each piece is introduced by the person contributing it, all doctors working with older adults in Ireland, with the reason for their choices. This gives it a real community feel, almost as though you are all sitting and chatting about favourite pieces of literature in the mess or over a drink, and it also made me reflect on how the humanities have always influenced my own practice, as will be the case for many of us. I like the notion of one day taking Emergence on a ward round and talking over a poem, or finding out from colleagues what their favourite might be.

There are a lot of firm favourites included, from Tennyson’s Ulysses to Jenny Joseph’s Warning, and a good mix of light-hearted and more serious topics and tones, spanning poetry, short stories, excerpts and even interviews. My favourite entries were ‘Broken Homes’ by William Trevor, a story about someone whose house is offered up for ‘improvements’ that do not really take her wishes into account, and my favourite unfamiliar poem was ‘The lament of the hag of Béara’, anonymously written in the tenth century from the perspective of the Cailleach.

This is a great anthology to dip into for anyone interested in ageing. Whether you are looking for a moment of reflection, or perhaps in need of a fresh perspective, this is provided both via the included pieces but also from those nominating them, who all share a passion and interest in this topic.

I am delighted that the plans for a second volume of Emergence are now underway, inviting submissions from BGS readers across the UK. You can send in your favourite pieces for consideration, using this link here with a closing date of 30 April 2021.

You can buy the first volume of the Emergence Anthology here


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