Monday, November 14, 2011
Nice Pretty Things -
‘My poems don’t start from ideas, but from bits of language, maybe a turn of phrase that’s like a tune that plays over and over in my mind. A poem can often be like a game in my head where I want to think about something I don’t fully understand. Recently a child said to me, “I’m not me. I’m someone else. I’m very strong. I’m Richie McCaw.” It’s easy when you’re four years old to play this sort of game. Writing is one way that as an adult I can take on a different persona. Some of these poems may suggest I live in rest home and that I have won the Katherine Mansfield Fellowship and lived in Menton. I did once spend a happy weekend in Paris, but I’ve never been to Menton and I have never won the Katherine Mansfield Fellowship. That doesn’t stop me wondering what it would be like to be selected for a magnificent prize and live in a remote city. I also wonder what it may be like one day to live in a rest home.’
About the poet:
Rachel Bush was born in Christchurch on Boxing Day 1941, and grew up in Hawera. Until 2003 she was a teacher of English at a secondary school in Nelson. Her first two collections of poetry are The Hungry Woman (1997) and The Unfortunate Singer (2002). She has also appeared in Faber’s Introduction 3 as well as in anthologies and journals such as Sport, Landfall and the Listener.
Above Rachel Bush speaks of Menton and the Katherine Mansfield Fellowship. Below are three stanzas from her Menton poem which runs to some four pages in the book, plus another poem, Birthday, which especially appeals to me.
Tell me about Menton
The best day was the first day when
an electrician was fixing a new light
in the kitchen and I went to check the mail
because this electrician kept talking about
the All Blacks, Richie McCaw, and I was out
of my depth. The usual bills, but then a letter
that I opened without reading until I saw Congratulations
and remembered the Katherine Mansfield Fellowship.
Or it could have been the telephone. The electrician was there.
Excuse me, I said, relieved that I did not need to tell him
I’d no idea of the score. This woman whose name
was unfamiliar whose voice would invent another future
just by dialling my number by listening to the ring tone,
then speaking my name and saying, ‘We’d like to offer etcetera.’
At first I was a mess.
I was blown away.
I was over the moon.
I was gobsmacked.
But the wind stopped
my bruised mouth healed
and I came down to earth.
I gathered myself together.
Yippee eye ay,
yippee eye do,
I really want you,
You are three hundred and sixty-five
minutes old. When your father rang
at one twenty-nine, I had to climb
up the shaft of my sleep well to
reach for my cellphone by the bed.
I stayed awake and thought how
new you are and everything is for
the first time. You have good colour.
Your weight is four point five two kgs,
but what is that in pounds? Your mother
feeds you while your father tells us this.
I lay curled against your grandfather
who has Parkinson’s. He went back
to sleep and his right arm forgot to tremble.
I lay for two hours. Mostly I lay
on my side in the dark and I realised
my right knuckle was pressed hard on my cheek.
I am sixty-five years old. Little man,
I am an ancestor.
Nice Pretty Things
Victoria University Press - $28
PS Cover image - Harvey Benge.