Thursday, December 11, 2008

It's Thursday, Time for a Poem

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".


Anonymous said...

Catherine - This was very captivating. I esocially like your two ending lines:
...and if she had poems in her
no one could tell.

Poignant and bittersweet...

Anonymous said...

I love "as if / the land is a map of itself." Wonderful place names! I relate to these lines so strongly, "all these words / begging to be harvested." Such a spot-on description of the way poets move through the world, "harvesting." Wonderful!

Anonymous said...

Lovely. That area of the world is so rich with potential poems... made me think about the difference between manmade landscapes, where the poems had been sown by humans, and wild landscapes, where time and the natural world has done the sowing. Poems to be found in both!

Anonymous said...

It stays in mind..Very well put.

pictures stare, curves are drawn

Ana said...

I second Ingrid.
I also like "greataunt Jane unvisited", it just sticks to my mind for some reason...

Anonymous said...

"and if she had poems in her
no one could tell."

That's a fantastic image. Hi.

Kay Cooke said...

A wonderful poem about inspiration; the results when it is set free or when restricted.