Sagrada Familia is Helen Anderson’s exploration of the isolation and erasure involved in loss, and a
reflection on the things which sustain us during hard times. Written in the aftermath of her becoming a widow only a few years after the death of her teenage daughter, these poems take us
from the agony of initial grief through to progress towards healing.

The trajectory of this journey is far from smooth: Sagrada Familia outlines the fragmentary nature of living with bereavement, lifting the cover on the private reality beneath outward appearances of
everyday survival. The poet shares her attempts to frame a language to deal with multiple shifts in
normality, whether on the beaches of her home in the North East of England or abroad. Like a
soundtrack which persists even when the backdrop changes, raw pain persists in the face of
attempts to find comfort in travel, nature, religion, and the re-shaping of memories: the only way
forward is to allow it to run its course.

Developing its motif of light forcing through darkness, Sagrada Familia ends on an uplifting, rallying
note. The final poems hint at happiness in a new - albeit unexpected - way of life, by means of real
change which does not involve hiding away, escaping, or conforming to society’s expectations.
Ultimately, Helen Anderson’s message is one of hope that trauma need not be the end, but can
become a bridge towards growth and to living on your own terms.

Helen Anderson

Helen Anderson writes in a small town/large village on the North East coast of England. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Teesside University. Author of 'Piece by Piece: Remembering Georgina: A Mother's Memoir' (Slipway) and a poetry chapbook 'Way Out' (The Black Light Engine Room), her work has been published in a number of literary magazines and anthologies. As a bereaved parent and a widow, Helen is fascinated by the therapeutic potential of words. Although much of her poetry and prose explores serious themes, Helen loves to surprise people with dashes of dry humour, both on the page and in ‘real life’.

Tender Places

She possesses no vocabulary for this pain she feels.

It’s “not an ache”, “not a throb” – “more of a strain”, she feels.


“Certainly not psychosomatic.” She rubs at imperceptible

 ulcers on her shin, like a baked-on stain. It feels


like she’s losing whatever “it” might have been.

Yet taking tablets goes against her grain. She feels


things were best when things were left unsaid -

lips stiff and chins up. No bones about the disdain she feels


for this limp modern language of disease. No sense –

no relief for you, daughter – in urging her to explain how she feels.