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est. 2005
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Dannie Abse


Jewish Doctors are a dime a dozen. Also Welsh Poets, Welsh Doctors, and even Doctor Poets. But there's only one Welsh Jewish Doctor Poet of note. And that would be Dannie Abse. And not a recent immigrant, either. His family had been in Wales for several generations and his mother spoke English, Welsh, and Yiddish. He claimed in his autobiography that he couldn't tell which of her sayings were derived from Welsh or Yiddish. There must have been considerable advantage to growing up Jewish in Wales, aside from being able to discuss cricket with the other boys while the remainder of his class was taken out for prayers. The boys in the Abse family attained various levels of distinction. One brother became an eccentric Labor MP. Another became a psychiatrist, and Dannie became a chest specialist with the sideline of pro-disarmament activism. He was a committed leftist going back to the anti-fascism of the '30s. He had a long, long love affair with his wife, who died a few years ago in a car accident, and with whom he collaborated on a variety of books. Abse published a few volumes of fiction and an autobiography, as well as journals (most of which we own), but was best known as a poet. A beloved poet. A poet's poet. He was always willing to judge a poetry competition because it helped him keep up with what's going on. About judging, he said, "I hope to go into a poem sober and come out a little drunk. And if I do then that's a real poem." 

One of our group (David Uri) remembers Abse visiting his school. Perhaps he heard a voice like this one reading an appropriate and, in my case, tear-producing, poem: It's called "Last Words."


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