In 2019, writers from Los Angeles’s Glass Table Collective, all over 60, gathered at AWP, Portland, to take up the idea of late-stage writing. What is it like to grow old as a writer, to face both the page and one’s final years in the same breath? For even if we’ve reached the stage in life where we have many more years behind us than ahead, it still occurs to most of us as somehow surprising: we can die, we will die, we do die. Then the pandemic came. By turns searing, poignant, and downright funny, What Falls Away Is Always brings together more than thirty writers of both prose and poetry to reflect on the experiences of aging and writing they share, along with the possibly more daunting question—what next?
Theodore Roethke, whose words give this anthology its title, once wrote “There are times when reality comes closer,” and in these meditations death comes close, oh so close, to the reader. The authors here entertain pressing questions: What ghosts should we keep around, and which let go? How do we talk to Death? Do we invite her and accept her into the commotion of life? Must we take inventory of our past accomplishments? How do we proceed with artistic endeavors in old age? Is there such a thing as “late style”? Be consoled, and surprised, as you listen in to these courageous voices. — Molly Bendall
Taking its cue from Theodore Roethke's sublime, indelible villanelle, "The Waking," this is an eclectic and wise compendium of writers addressing the richness and challenges of embracing aging, leave-taking, and the majestic journey toward death. Some of these testimonial essays are so tell-true and bracing, it's exhilarating. Diane Seuss, one of America's best and liveliest contemporary poets, insists: "Death is not an artificial boundary. It’s as dumb and real as Trump’s wall. It’s as dumb and real as artificial flowers." These way-showing, articulate elders bear candid witness to the late- in-life craving for mundane joy and "mere existence" alongside rallying impulses to attempt their best, most daring work yet. An invigorating and inspiring book! — Cyrus Cassells