‘Memory Forest’ by Gaynor Kane -Reviewed

Reviewed ByEmma Lee
'Memory Forest' by Gaynor Kane -Reviewed

‘Memory Forest’ Gaynor Kane 

Hedgehog Press

ISBN 9781916090859

The theme behind the ‘Memory Forest’ is about legacy, not the physical possessions we might pass down to next generation(s), but what will be remembered of us, the impact we had on those around us. Sometimes death is looked at fearlessly as in ‘Build Me a Viking Longship’ (from ‘After Life’), sometimes more quietly with the sense of keeping a foot in the present world, in ‘The Tree Seed Pod’

‘Slowly, it happened so slowly, I was fragile for years, encased in a protective tube. Breeze made me bend, strengthened my trunk. Now, my grandchildren bring their children to my memory forest, picnic under sacred shade, teach all the species’ names, tell the tale of my metamorphoses, I get hugs.


often called a tree-hugger

now I’m Daphne encapsulated

on an Ash Tree.’


Nature is seen as restorative and vibrant, something to be celebrated and shared in. A country walk shared with another is remembered in ‘Last Walk in the Forest’,

‘At the “Silver Surfers” he was learning how to use the iPad he’d received from the kids for Christmas. He had a smart TV, to access apps and stream videos. There was one replicating a fireplace, if you watched long enough am arm reached in from the corner of the screen to give the room a cosy glow without all the hassle of the ashes.

Today, in the library, he was surfing the web. The world so small now, you could go virtually anywhere – forest graves in Sweden, native Americans building burial scaffolding in branches, the rituals across the Philippines.


hollowed out trunk

picked in person before death

Caviteño tree burials.’


Even technology is used to bring people closer to the natural world although the authorial intrusion implicates the subject is browsing natural burial rituals rather than contacting grandchildren or checking the football results feels presumptious. Several poems explore aspects of a newish industry that converts the cremated ashes of loved ones into jewellery or other artifacts for remembrance. ‘I’m a Record Baby!’ sees a dream almost come true, although instead of singing or playing on a record, the narrator becomes the record,


‘End-of-life industry,

a growing market;

I saw the tin stamp made

hills and mountains

for words and notes

in concentric circles.


Picked clear wax

for the biscuits.

This’ll be a low volume run

but it will be no white label;

colour photo in the centre.


My cremains will glitter

on vinyl like food’s gold.

They’ll add a lot of fizz,

crackle, scratch and pop.

My MP3 file in the grooves.’


Despite the theme, ‘Memory Forest’ is not morbid. It prefers to face the end of life head on with candour and hope. Gaynor Kane writes accessibly in a conversational tone that belies its brio and makes the poems easy to read aloud. The ‘Memory Forest’ seeks to make connections and succeeds. The pamphlet length felt right too, over a full collection, the theme could have felt stretched and may have sagged, but the pamphlet is focused and concentrated and doesn’t overstay its welcome.