this palm-sized book with its exquisite end papers and illustrations, with its ineluctable poems by a woman who has lived a life of writing, who has travelled and received honours, who is first of all a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a daughter, a grand-daughter, a mother-in-law, a woman, a friend, for whom it hasn't always been easy, who has relied on an an innate strength and chutzpah and family to make something of it all.
Take the poem 'Pruning roses' written for her daughter Joanna. It starts 'The year we lived in France/I nipped home in July, the cold/ set of winter, to prune the roses/or so I said, although there was/ other business too...' In France, Fiona Kidman was the Katherine Mansfield fellow in Menton; going home to prune the roses was about keeping the connection with the family and home she'd left behind. 'There were four of us there/ on the day of their ritual/ planting: my daughter, her daughter,/her brother's wife, and me.' And she thinks of the wedding Joanna had there: 'you wore a scarlet dress/and married your love/and we danced on the lawn.'
The day this book came out, three women who came into the bookshop where I work, stroked it, and read it, and bought it. Others admired it repeatedly and will, I am sure, return. This in a place where the sale of a poetry book a week is cause for celebration. One woman I work with - who has never before commented on poetry - came over and made me read 'Pruning the roses.' Oh yes, you must, you really must read this poem. And the one about Katherine Mansfield's shawl, and the one about the poets gathered for afternoon tea, and the one about the Grandmothers. All of them.
The launch of Fiona Kidman's latest collection of poetry was also a celebration of her 70th birthday. A wonderful event, with Joanna Kidman giving a gutsy, funny, moving tribute to her Mum. For an evocative write-up on the launch, go here . Happy Birthday, Fiona.