Reflections on cancer diagnosis: “Michael I thought you were dead”

michael I thought you were dead

Dealing with a cancer diagnosis was the catalyst for a new book of poems from Wellington poet and publisher Michael Fitzsimons, with the title of Michael I thought you were dead.

“Michael I thought you were dead is an honest and searching account of what it feels like to confront one’s mortality and find spiritual meaning in life’s most difficult circumstances,” says The Cuba Press publisher Mary McCallum.

“But there is light and lightness in Michael’s observations and a nice turn of humour that you don’t expect.

The black humour of the title poem is just a start.

At one point, for example, he describes putting on a pair of shorts and some fancy French aftershave to go and see the oncologist. It finishes: “I await the verdict. A scented man.”

Fitzsimons says writing the poems helped him make sense of what was happening to him.

Writing poems is my way of facing danger. Words on a page, however they tumble out, are my prayer, (from “Markings”.)

Speaking at the launch of the book, artist and writer Gregory O’Brien described Michael, I thought you were dead as “a love poem to the world and its inhabitants”.

“It is hard to imagine a book more infused with living, with seasonal growth and rebirth, with the wairua and spirit of being alive.

In the middle of an encounter with death, we find ourselves at the very heart of life.”

“This is a book of lessons, softly, wisely told. Michael, I thought you were dead is made up of a collection of poems followed by a section called “Markings”, which is a journal-like sifting of experience.

Says Mary: “Mike writes of the world in front of him in his eagle’s eyrie or on a bushwalk -intimate illuminated moments that suddenly take flight and give us a perspective as big as the world.”

Michael Fitzsimons is a regular contributor to the Catholic media and his latest publishing project was Joy Cowley’s Veil Over the Light.

His first book of poems, Now You Know, was recommended in Radio New Zealand’s annual poetry highlights.

Michael I thought you were dead is available at all good independent bookstores, online from The Cuba Press and Pleroma.


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