Ruth Valentine has worked as an undertaker and as a celebrant at secular funerals. In this new collection she draws on her experiences to compose an extended meditation on dying and death, its emotional grammar and its painful but necessary rituals.
Bleak and brave, serious and sad, Downpour is an unflinching study of the physical realities of dying. Bodies are prepared for burial, coffin lids are closed, and scattered ashes sail downriver. Valentine explores the geography of death – hospital corridors and waiting rooms, winter tides, tearful winds and rain-swept cemeteries – and considers the strangers – doctors, mortuary assistants and undertakers – who must escort us towards oblivion, conscious of ‘their own death and your death, / the death of the planet and the death of hope’.