Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tuesday Poem: Pruning roses by Fiona Kidman

Pruning roses
for Joanna

That 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. I oiled
my shiny shears and set upon

the annual task, slicing
clean on the diagonal:
they're a semi-circle of white

Icebergs planted in friable soil
stretching beneath the green native
trees surrounding our house. 

There were four of us there
on the day of their ritual
planting: my daughter, her daughter,
               her brother's wife and me. 

We hummed wedding songs
in soft anticipation of the first
buds and then when they came

you wore a scarlet dress
and married your love
and we danced on the lawn. 

                             Fiona Kidman 

Pruning Roses is one of my favourite poems in Dame Fiona Kidman's collection Where Your Left Hand Rests, published this year to celebrate her 70th birthday, and already in the Top 10 of the Bestsellers' List. Like many of the poems in this gorgeous book, Pruning Roses is about family and the stuff that binds. Fiona writes simply and powerfully of family history and ritual and strength and love and joy. 

She also writes about what it is to be a woman who writes, and takes us from a bunch of poets in Thorndon to meeting a son in Greece to the year she spent in France as the Katherine Mansfield fellow. That's the year Fiona Kidman sat down at the writer's desk in that small important room and decided she'd worked hard at writing fiction for so long, and now she would work hard at her poems again. 

For those overseas readers who are new to Fiona's work - she has published eight novels including the award-winning The Book of Secrets and The Captive Wife, many collections of poetry and short fiction, and her non-fiction includes a recent two-volume memoir. Fiona has been awarded a Damehood, the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres and the French Legion of Honour, and yet the last lines of her book are typically modest: ' ....My epitaph may be that she was a small woman/who spent her days in small airports flying/on very small aeroplanes to middle-sized towns.' 

As I said in my review when Where your Left Hand Rests was launched - some books fill you up, and this is one of those: its exquisite end papers and illustrations using vintage fabrics are just a start. The poems nestle inside - small treasures. 

Tuesday Poem

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LentenStuffe said...

Indeed, from such unlikely beginnings orisons and epics are made -- the gods make their own importance.

Thanks for sharing.

Mim said...

The "scarlet dress" draws me in.

Thank you for telling us about Fiona Kidman.

maggie@at-the-bay.com said...

Simply lovely, thank you - and hooray for the Tuesday Poem - it is a Tuesday treat. It reminds me that it is time to dig out my plot of old (unscented red) roses and to order some lovely scented replacements from Tasman Bay Roses.

Claire Beynon said...

The semi-circle of white Icebergs seems to echo the shape of the four women 'planted in friable soil... '

Love the passion, surprise and rebellion (?) of the red dress!

sonja yelich said...

Hi Mary - I wonder if there is a typo in the third line of Fiona's poem - I hope that I am wrong. cheers, sonja

Meliors Simms said...

You've convinced me to seek out this beautiful book

Mary McCallum said...

Oh I love that John - 'the gods make their own importance' - and Mim and Claire, yes, the scarlet dress leaps out from the white roses rather marvellously grabbing our attention - there does seem to be something mythical or 'fairytale' evoked, too, as you imply, Claire - the ring of roses, the ring of women, dancing on the grass fairy-like in red - this is what I love most about the poem - and the simple 'stuff' of women that is Fiona's hallmark....

And oh, Sonja, you're right - there is a typo - 'winer' is now 'winter' as it should have been - it makes you wonder, doesn't it, how many times you can read a thing and just not see it because you expect it to be something else...?

Great, Meliors, do check out Fiona's book, the photos and extracts only partly do it justice, it's a lovely thing to hold.

Mary McCallum said...

Oh and Maggie - love to 'smell the roses' when they're in ... and thank you for being a regular early reader of the Tuesday Poem - you were up before me!

Penelope said...

Love and weddings aside, this makes my right hand itch for a pair of oiled and shiny shears. Thanks for the introduction, Mary.

Kay Cooke said...

We are so lucky in NZ to have such a rich store of poets writing rich amd wonderful poetry. Makes one so proud to be a kiwi. Thanks Mary. Thanks Fiona.

Fiona Kidman said...

t takes a generous heart to give as much support to other writers as you do. Thanks, Mary, for including me in The Tuesday Poem.


susan t. landry said...

yes, mary...there's such peace & serenity in this poem.
i am pleased to learn of new writers--new to me--and i know that i would want to hold this book in my hand.

T. said...

What a stunningly beautiful book! All poetry should enjoy such riches.