Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Domestic poetry

Managed to get hold of three slim poetry books written by women, the first I read was Jenny Bornholdt, the only poetry book by a woman in the whole of Cummings Park Library, entitled These Days (2000, published by VUP)

Read her with great pleasure, not always understanding, but always liking. Domestic poetry, a domestic goddess. What was the name of the goddess of the hearth?
(Thanks to faithful CleverKeys, it was Hestia, tho I don't think she'll do here, as she was very attached to her virginity...I don't think so.)

Am mystified by poems such as this one:

Treats from Dorothy's:
Wanganuis and Ginger
Kisses, Eccles Cakes.

Read it out loud, but none the wiser.
Shall send it to Libby, we were at Dorothy's just the other day.

A friend lent me two books of poetry, the first I read was nga kokako huataratara, the plumes of the kokako, by Arapera Hineira Kaa, a cousin of her husband's. Lovely poetry, also earth-bound. (1995, Waiata Koa, Auckland)

What I liked most was some prose that was slipped in near the end of the book, an article she wrote about cultivating kumara, a reflection on Pakeha influence on Maori social structure and mores. It won a Mansfield BNZ prize in 1959.
(My friend tells me Arapera had a bad stroke and lived with its consequences for ten long years.)

My favourite poem was one entitled Freedom -

If I could
I would live instead
in trees -
like a bird!

especially the last two verses:

I'd be free
to care for
those who need me.

Full of mystery for me, how come she was not free? Or did her body let her down, her strength not up to it?

The third book is The Hare that Hides Within, Poems about St Melangell (2004, Parthian,A. Clusenaar and N. Schwenk, eds.), a collection of 10 poems by both women and men.

Melangell was an Irish mystic who fled to Wales rather than marry and lived in a deep valley in isolation until a prince hunting a hare found her, the hare having taken refuge by the hem of her dress. The prince gave her protection and she lived there many years, establishing a convent for women who wanted to retire from the world.
I've only started reading. The book is very attractively produced, a lovely etching of the hare on the cover, and use of black and white, the white creamy and only a little red, the right kind of blood red for the purpose. I forgot to mention, the foreword is by Rowan Williams. A good start. I've only read the first one, more about this tomorrow. Also shall get to the library today and get some more English female poets. Maybe a compendium, if that's the right word. I need to focus more, in the direction of Jenny Bornholdt.

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