Sarah Holland-Batt on bearing witness

Shortly after Sarah Holland-Batt’s father Tony was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease – and told he was no longer fit to drive – he bought himself his dream car. A Jaguar. He made the purchase via eBay, sight unseen; the first his wife knew about it was when it was delivered to their front door. It was an impulsive act of rebellion, but also symptomatic of the loss of judgement and compulsive spending that can accompany the early stages of the illness.

In the title piece of her third volume of poetry, The Jaguar, Holland-Batt writes that the vehicle – an emerald green vintage 1980 XJ – “shone like an insect in the driveway”. Sometimes, her father would defy doctor’s orders and his family’s wishes and take off, ignoring his tremors and impaired vision. More often, though, the former engineer tinkered obsessively with the machine, until, eventually, it could no longer be driven:

… it sat like a carcass

in the garage, like a headstone, like a coffin

Holland-Batt’s grief for her father, who died in March 2020, is at the core of The Jaguar. She describes the collection as an act of bearing witness. “It is a profoundly intimate thing to watch someone you love go through a long decline and then die,” she says.… Read more..

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