Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tuesday Poem: What I'd take etc....

What I’d take in the event of a tsunami
              & what I wouldn’t

Tiny ivory elephant in a tiny woven box in the cupboard
                    the missing tusk, fine as a finger nail

Photo cut in a circle – badly – to fit that old frame
                    the frame, the running boys inside it: too big to carry

Daughter, her things, she won't pack light,
                     the filled apple boxes waiting for the op shop
Bass guitar with a name that sounds like kissing and telling
                    the piano out by a semi-tone, all those piano lessons

The iron pot which rings like a bell when you drop it
                   the iron pot which rings like a bell when you drop it.

Mary McCallum

This came out of an exercise I invented for a poetry workshop of Year 9-11 year olds at Newlands College. I had a fantastic afternoon there last week, annoucing the winners of the school-wide poetry competition, running the poetry workshop, and talking about the NZ novels that influenced my fiction to a scholarship English class. What a terrific bunch of switched-on students. 

Thanks to Newlands College teacher extraordinaire and Tuesday Poet, Harvey Molloy, who got me involved.  

The exercise was to make the students write in precise concrete detail rather than writing abstractions and the familiar. It yielded some terrific stuff - terribly poignant at times and all evocative of character: the girl who would leave behind the bra with the scratchy underwire, the other one who would take her great grandmother's blue rosary, the boy who would take his Baxter but not his Thomas, one who'd take a tiny red triangular pick but not the guitar 'that keeps it company'. 

I liked the way they played with the relationship between the give and take line in each couplet. 

My poem: there's a lot about weight here - the need for relative lightness in the items that can be taken - and how the lost and absent things we live with often become heavy - so can't be taken for two reasons. What of the iron pot? It's that will I/won't I thing... it is heavy, and the line signals that the potential for it to be dropped is huge, and yet the ringing it would make - the sound of its 'thisness' as Gerard Manley Hopkins would say - is beautiful. 

Worth it then? To try? Perhaps to hear the bell? It's my best cooking pot, so many meals have been made in it, like magic - something from nothing. Cook porridge cook.... May as well. 

The poetry submissions for the competition were good to read and the winners were standout. 

Check out Tuesday Poem now www.tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com


Penelope said...

The repetition of the line at the end is so strong; Mary, tolling like a bell.

Michelle Elvy said...

Oh I love this, Mary, and I love the discussion here too -- how this evolved from a school exercise. I can just imagine how much fun that must have been, and how the give/take and push/pull and heavy/light entered into the thought process.

I find specificity makes things real, and this is a great illustration of that. Wonderful post!