My new poetry collection (published by Red Squirrel Press, cover design Gerry Cambridge)

Some of my facebook friends are dead, as are some of my friends’ adult children or close friends on facebook. Many of us think of facebook as great for keeping in touch, meeting people, sharing photos, networking and marketing our work as authors. Social media has other perhaps less expected roles. My new poetry collection, my 4th, and 13th published book, THE FACEBOOK OF THE DEAD launches officially on 4th November. The title poem in my book is a meditation on this, and  a tribute to a brilliantly talented young friend and writer, Lee Halpin, who died tragically at the age of 26. Here is the poem.


In life we leave the dead behind. On Facebook
They gallop along with us, like racehorses
Whose jockeys have been jettisoned. Like you,
Your life cut short but not your timeline, though
Your relationship status, life events, favourite
Films and books will never change again.

We go out without you on your birthday then
Write on your wall to tell you about it as if
You can read our words on some virtual
Laptop though you can’t reply. We tag you
As if you can feel it, feel us thinking of you,
Remembering that night, yes that one, LOL!
One posts to tell you he’s saved your number
On a new phone, as if you can see his message
But he can’t text you - it’s complicated.

We tell you where you are. Resting in peace,
You ‘Rip’, but with us in spirit, here beside us,
No, watching from above; sleeping with the angels
But no, you’re giving them merry hell up there, I mean
What are you like! We gift you the greed of our grief
As boys compete to be your bezzie mate, the worst hurt;
Girls line up to be your widow, claim the most kisses.

Scrolling down the papyrus of your page I travel
Back in time through the confused, incredulous
Comments as your updated status spread: dead.
Many saw it on Facebook first, I at second hand
Seeing her face drain white as she looked at her phone
As if charging it with her blood, a transfusion too late.

Go back far enough, down, down, suddenly it’s your voice
Speaking, your last comments which you didn’t know would
Be your last. A bit crack, a bit banter, irony, witty put-downs,
RIP Richard Griffiths, plans for the future, all four days of it.

Your cheeky profile pic pops up among my friends, weighing
On my heart each time I catch your eye, and if I could,
I’d unfriend Death for you, report him for abuse, the troll
Who poked you, who is ‘following’ us all, block him for good.

(‘Rip’: as well as a common misspelling of RIP, rip is a Tyneside word for a lively, mischievous lad)

Dealing with losses such as bereavement, or as in my case also disability, comes in many forms. Postmortem photography in the 1800s when so many children died, and baby doll 'reburying' nowadays, for example: and Facebook has become another way of coping, especially for the young. Facebook seems to leave the timelines of the dead open, providing a familiar consoling 'grave' to visit any time, in place of the traditional churchyard stone. It's a practical help for the bereaved who can contact huge numbers of friends and extended family to pass on information about funerals, memorials etc instead of having to make countless phone calls when they are suffering acutely.

'Reborn' baby doll, custom crafted for maximum realism.

More about the book from the back cover:

‘Laws manages to be heartfelt without seeming overly sentimental, and is witty without being irreverent.’ The Economist 
Valerie Laws’ thirteenth book combines poems of pathology and loss, speed-dating tortoises, baking scones for Eminem, haiku sprayed on beachballs, and passionate polemic in more of her signature ‘compassion, neuroanatomical detail, explicit eroticism and black humour’ (Susan Standring, editor of Gray’s Anatomy).Many prize-winning & commissioned poems are included, some having featured in major exhibitions, anthologies, stage productions or on BBC TV.
‘Brilliant. …I came as a skeptic and left oddly impressed…rather wonderful combination of words’ Griff Rhys Jones, BBC2, Why Poetry Matters, Water’s Bright Words beachball haiku.

I'm planning a launch party in a really cool Newcastle art and music bar, MSA, with guitar, singing, performance, film installations, cocktails and wine, on 4th November, and then lots more events will follow. I hope some of you will come along to my launch readings in various places over the next year, and I’m still promoting this year’s crime novel THE OPERATOR. See my website for dates and places.

THE FACEBOOK OF THE DEAD is available in paperback from my publisher Red Squirrel Press, or from inpress books, or from me at events and readings. Its three immediate predecessors, two crime and one poetry, are on Kindle as indie books, and I intend to do the same for this one, despite the nightmare of formatting poetry, especially in unorthodox forms.

STOP PRESS: my second thriller, THE OPERATOR, is on special sale this weekend, at 99p/99c, to celebrate the new book and as part of the Awesome Indies new website launch, which will be here with great sale prices and giveaways this weekend. Info on Facebook too.

See my newly revamped Amazon author page here for information about my books
Follow me on Twitter @ValerieLaws
Find me on Facebook
Check out my Pinterest boards which I’ll be updating soon to include the new book.


Kathleen Jones said…
Lovely poem Val. I'd love to come to your launch, but will be just beginning the long trawl back to the UK, via Singapore and Italy. Hope one day to be able to link up! Good luck with the new collection.
Susan Price said…
It's a shame we're all so spread out geographically. I loved 'All That Lives,' and I loved the poem posted above. Good luck with the new books!
Mari Biella said…
A lovely poem, and good luck with the new books. I was recently thinking that the internet can in some cases bestow a strange kind of immortality on people; it's nice to think of someone's online presence as being almost like a grave, that you can visit at any time. Good post!
Lydia Bennet said…
aw thanks folks! (there's a weird autocorrect typo in this, sorry, it should be 'reborned' baby not reburied!
Enid Richemont said…
Your poem struck a very painful chord for me, as my late (LOATHE that word!) husband, David, is on Facebook, and sometimes, yes, I write on his page. Heartbreaking.
And of course I'll buy your book.
Lydia Bennet said…
thank you Enid, so many ways to deal with loss, but it's still very hard. xxx
A sad, beautiful, and true poem, Valerie, thank-you.

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