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Last March
by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
(pub. 2012)


Last March Reviews


"This collection examines the well told story of Scott’s last ill fated expedition; however it manages to retell it in a way that gives those events a fresh perspective. The landscape of Antarctica becomes another character in the story; ice and snow is given a timeless voice that echoes throughout the unfolding drama. In many ways Scott, Evans, Wilson, Bowers and Oates move through a poetic tragedy in which Antarctica becomes the Greek chorus. This ‘ice chorus’ speaks of the nature of man’s courage and hubris but also of its own potential slow demise.

"These poems by Millwood-Hargrave are by turn delicate and muscular, echoing the fragility of human life counter-pointed by the grinding power of the polar ice cap. They do not disappoint in their use of language and even the unusual use of punctuation at times stage directs the reader into the experience of the long breathlessness of that last march. The story of Captain Scott’s last expedition is told through this collection without recourse to sentimentality.   The poems draw the reader into a world where the poignant loss not only of human life but also the potential loss of ice itself ensures you cannot avert your gaze from the harsh realities of the past and maybe our future."

Andrea Porter


"They left in a time for heroes,/To arrive in a place for ghosts’ writes Kiran Millwood Hargrave at the end of one of the poems in this carefully researched and vividly imagined sequence. Last March combines a familiar narrative with a strong sense of strangeness and alienation, of personal courage in the grip of remorseless polar conditions, realised and refracted through the prism of sharp-edged, animated poems full of arresting detail."

John Mole

 

"In poems of precision and poise, Kiran Millwood Hargrave re-imagines the journey of Scott and his team, from choppy seas to final fateful nights, with a surprising intimacy and an astute eye for historical detail. But these poems do not just give voice to the bravery and excitement of exploration – they speak the rhythms of the land, those ‘desolate, screaming plains’, and warn of how much it has changed in the past one hundred years."

Michael McKimm

 

Last March


Still,

Imagine that this is the point where they made camp;
This smear of dark tent in this unflinching brightness,
That this is where their last March took them
The months pulling them on, drawn against the white
Like pencil marks on paper, stories stuffed into their boots
And heads, for they could take nothing else on their tired legs,
On this, the last stretch before home.

They did not drop like flies but rather faded, rubbed out
By the icy lovelessness of a snowstorm,
Quieter and slower than we would like to think,
Like the suffocation of a candle, or the opening of a daffodil.
At home it is spring,
But on their last march Scott met his final winter
Not knowing the weight of the pen, the depth of his mark as he wrote

The last hurried thought –
"For God's sake look after our people" –
Or how, two years on a war would start,
And after four more they'd consider it won
Yet the people unlooked for, God's sake sought in the sound of bombs
And shells, and Scott, dying snail-paced to the sound of snow
And silence, and breaths guttering out, slower, now, slow.

 

(from Last March)

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