Dannie Abse

22 September 1923  - 28 September 2014

Photo: Amit Lennon

Last Words

Splendidly, Shakespeare's heroes,
Shakespeare's heroines, once the spotlight's on,
enact every night, with such grace, their verbose deaths.
Then great plush curtains, then smiling resurrection
to applause - and never their good looks gone.

The last recorded words too
of real kings, real queens, all the famous dead,
are but pithy pretences, quotable fictions
composed by anonymous men decades later,
never with ready notebooks at the bed.

Most do not know who they are
when they die or where they are, country or town,
nor which hand on their brow. Some clapped-out actor may
imagine distant clapping, bow, but no real queen
will sigh, 'Give me my robe, put on my crown.'

Death scenes not life-enhancing,
death scenes not beautiful nor with breeding;
yet bravo Sydney Carton, bravo Duc de Chavost
who, euphoric beside the guillotine, turned down
the corner of the page he was reading.

And how would I wish to go?
Not as in opera - that would offend -
nor like a blue-eyed cowboy shot and short of words,
but finger-tapping still our private morse,'...love you,'
before the last flowers and flies descend.


Dannie Abse’s collected poems (plus some new work) were published by Hutchinson in November 2014


The definitive anthology spanning from 1948-2014, complete with new poems, from multi-award winning Dannie Abse, one of Britain's most well-respected poets.
This is the collection of a lifetime's work from one of Britiain's best-loved poets. Dannie Abse has published an array of work including fiction, autobiography and plays but he is best known, and critically acclaimed, as a poet. 

Dannie Abse collects together here the definitive jewels of his cannon. This volume comprises both a distinguished collection of his past work and a generous selection of new poems.

“He brought a blend of precision and compassion to a body of work that was attentive, tender, always deeply felt.” The Guardian

“To the lover of poetry, the death of any fine poet is cause for grief – because a singing voice is silenced forever. Welshman Abse, doctor and poet, died in September, so this last collection is a volume to treasure.” The Daily Mail

"Speak Old Parrot" 


2013 marked Dannie Abse's 90th birthday. In his lifetime he published an astonishing array of work including poetry, fiction, criticism, plays and autobiography but it is as a poet that he is best known and loved. 

In Speak, Old Parrot he returned to themes of loss, love, medicine and its moral implications, the nature of creativity, Jewish folk tradition and the passing of time. The poems are observant of the outside world as well as the inner life and emotions but most of all they are a joy to read. 

Available from Random House

See Wales Online

"What distinguishes Dannie Abse’s poetry is his voice: strong, clear, gentle, passionate, ironic, proud, melancholic.  We keep our senses open to his magic, terrific with light." - Londongrip

"Abse’s life is so awash with experience that thought and feeling have physically manifested themselves around every corner of his world." - Ham and High

Recent Publications:

 "Goodbye Twentieth Century" - New Edition

cover 20th century

Dannie Abse's rich mixture of Welsh and Jewish backgrounds, and his dual occupations of doctor and author, have led to what is widely regarded as one of the most readable, humorous and poignant autobiographies available today. Goodbye, Twentieth Century incorporates his acclaimed first volume of autobiography, A Poet in the Family, and - in this new edition from the Library of Wales - brings his life up to the present day and the outset of a new century. It includes a moving epilogue that speaks of his recent years which brought tragedy and dramatic change to his life.

Available direct from Parthian Books

"A magnificently conceived work." - The Guardian

"Extra Time" from the Enitharmon Press

Signed, limited edition chapbook in an edition of 100. Every book is unique, with each very distinctive cover individually hand-made. 

Dannie Abse: A Sourcebook
- by Cary Archard

Dannie Abse, whose career as a poet spans sixty years, has made a huge contribution to the literature and literary life of Wales and to writing in English. This Sourcebook is an essential companion to the poetry, prose, drama and critical writings of a major poet. Cary Archard has edited and written about Abse’s work for over twenty years and collects here a marvellous representative selection of Abse’s own writings, together with comment on and critical responses to his work, which illuminates Abse’s achievements for both students and general readers.

Available direct from Seren Books

"More trustworthy than Google, cheaper than buying of the internet shelf" Planet

News:  Dannie Abse awarded CBE

Dannie Abse was awarded a gong in the 2012 New Years' Honours list. His CBE for services to poetry and literature was somewhat reluctantly accepted.

“It’s a compliment, and one should always say thank you,” he said from his home in Golders Green. “Yes, I did think whether to accept it. But then I realised that Harold Pinter, far more left-wing than me, and others too have accepted honours.”

He added: “You start writing poetry as a gentle pursuit, but it can be tough in many ways too. You have to go into the darkness of oneself, as it were, to come back with some light.”


Dannie Abse's latest book of poems: 
Two For Joy - Scenes from Married Life 

two for joy cover

Dannie and Joan Abse had been married for more than fifty years when she was killed in a car crash in 2005. After her death he wrote his extraordinary memoir of loss, The Presence, which was the Wales Book of the Year in 2008. In contrast, much of this new collection is a delightful celebration. In it Dannie Abse returns to their marriage through all its seasons, and celebrates love in verse which is funny, tender and playful as well as serious and passionate. Almost half the poems appear in this form for the first time. 'One for sorrow, two for joy' is the old country saw about the magpie. These poems reflect its truth, and in the process transfigure ordinary life and love into something rich and strange. Available in paperback from publishers Random House. 
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