Over at readwritepoem, the theme this week is panegyrics - poems in praise of a person.
This poem is not exactly a panegyric, but it does include affectionate references to several local poets. That's about as close as I usually get to high-flown praise. I've had this one gestating for a couple of weeks or so, since my recent road trip to Dunedin. It's still very much a first draft.
Driving South in the Company of Poets
Every small town and village labelled,
every trickle of water, as if
the land is a map of itself.
Dogleg Stream, Muddy Creek,
Flagswamp Culvert. All these words
begging to be harvested
some of them claimed already
Rhian at Saltwater Creek
Jim at Blueksin Bay,
Bernadette and Joanna at Seacliff,
the old asylum nearby
greataunt Jane unvisited
for quarter of a century
babbling like a Chinaman
and if she had poems in her
no one could tell.
The poets/poems referred to are as follows:
Rhian Gallagher and "Saltwater Creek"
James Norcliffe and "Along Blueskin Road"
Bernadette Hall and her poem "Shaddai" which is set at Seacliff, and includes a conversation with her friend, painter and poet Joanna Margaret Paul.
Seacliff is the site of a former lunatic asylum. My greataunt Jane who was developmentally disabled lived at home for 30 years until her mother died and her sisters could no longer cope, she was then admitted to Seacliff where she died nearly 25 years later. The phrase "babbling like a Chinaman" comes from her hospital file which makes rather sad reading.
She had fallen into a fire and been severely burned as a child, and also had diptheria at the age of five. I can't help feeling that with modern medical treatment she would have fared a great deal better, perhaps been educated at least to a degree, and certainly would not have been classed as a "lunatic".