Saturday, September 16, 2006

Pomes for a missed day

Woops! I missed a day or two. No excuse, just a shitload of work piling up and family commitments clashing up against it. Every busy woman's burden.

Setting the scholarly edition of Mary Gilmore vol 2 is taking a lot of time. Lots of tiny fiddlings, lots of tweaking and decision-making about little things like longest lines and spacings of footnotes, etc. You'd think having done it before (with vol 1 and every other Academy Edition in the series) would have sped things up, but no. There's a very tight deadline with this, so I've had to make the decision to miss some AFI screenings in favour of working, which breaks my heart a little bit.

I did make the effort today to see one of the shorter films: Stranded, starring Emma Lung and Emily Browning (you might remember her as the older sister in Lemony Snickett's A Series of Unfortunate Events). Apart from the excellent actors and an appealing storyline (well, for me, anyway: a dark comedy about the emotional impact of suicide upon a family), the main drawcard for me was the original soundtrack by JWalker of Machine Translations, which didn't disappoint in its understated way.

Now. Poetry. Dame Mary Gilmore swings me between interest and frustration, because she wrote SO MUCH and a lot of it was not very exciting, especially when she was just dashing bits and pieces off to fill empty corners of women's magazines at the page proof stage. But the good editors have worked very hard to make this Collected a comprehensive one, and the scary fact that there are almost as many unpublished poems sitting in the vaults as there are published one is something for some other research project to deal with.

I have to admit she came to mind today when I was sent a Pome about Steve Irwin in a chain family email. Check it out (I'm keeping the 'forward' symbols to preserve the ambience):

>> > Endless visions fill my head - this man - as large as life
>> > And instantly my heart mourns for his angels and his wife
>> > Because the way I see Steve Irwin - just put everything aside
>> > It comes back to his family - it comes back to his pride
>> >
>> > His animals inclusive - Crikey - light the place with love!
>> > Shine his star with everything he fought to rise above
>> > The crazy-man of Khaki from the day he left the pouch
>> > Living out his dream and in that classic 'Stevo' crouch
>> >
>> > Exploding forth with character and redefining cheek
>> > It's one thing to be honoured as a champion unique
>> > It's one thing to have microphones and spotlight cameras shoved
>> > It's another to be taken in and genuinely loved
>> >
>> > But that was where he had it right - I guess he always knew
>> > From his fathers' modest reptile park and then Australia Zoo
>> > We cringed at times and shook our heads - but true to natures call
>> > There was something very Irwin in the make up of us all
>> >
>> > Yes the more I care to think of it - the more he had it right
>> > If you're going to make a difference - make it big and make it
>> > Yes - he was a lunatic! Yes - he went head first!
>> > But he made the world feel happy with his energetic burst
>> >
>> > A world so large and loyal that it's hard to comprehend
>> > I doubt we truly count the warmth until life meets an end
>> > To count it now I say a prayer with words of inspiration
>> > May the spotlight shine forever on his dream for conservation
>> >
>> > .My daughter broke the news to me - my six year old in tears
>> > It was like she'd just turned old enough to show her honest fears
>> > I tried to make some sense of it but whilst her Dad was trying
>> > His little girl explained it best.she said "The crocodiles are
>> >
>> > Their best mate's up in heaven now - the crocs up there are smiling!
>> > And as sure as flowers, poems and cards and memories are piling
>> > As sure as we'll continue with the trademarks of his spiel
>> > Of all the tributes worthy - he was rough.but he was real
>> >
>> > As sure as 'Crikey!' fills the sky
>> > I think we'll miss ya Steve.goodbye
>> >

SIGH. The thing is, if Dame Mary were alive and in her prime right now, she’d be writing that sort of stuff. Truly. I’d rather read it the way she would have done it – at least it would have had some proper balladic lilt about it, but she was in many ways a poet for the common people. She would write about issues that people were concerned about, or were nostalgic over. Many of her Pomes (which are, thankfully, outnumbered by her poems) I can imagine people having the same reaction about as my relative with the above poem (I like this very much, it says it all), and clipping them out and sending them to one another. Check this out:*


Oh, Sydney Town is my town;
And I would have you know
You’ll never see such another
Wherever your feet may go.

Oh, Sydney Town is my town;
I see her lapped around
By a shining shimmering ocean
That sings with a silken sound;
The waves run round by Bondi,
And over to Manly far—
Her streets are jewels, binding,
And every lamp a star.

The stars look down on Sydney,
The lamps look up at the stars,
And wherever the night makes darkness
You see the flash of her cars;
A blue flash, or a green flash,
Sharp as a thought that springs,
Quick as the etheric wave brought in
By the tiny spark that sings!

They sang her of old in stilted verse
Measured and cut to rule;
But I would sing her as Freedom sings,
Or a boy just out of school.
I would sing her as lovers sing,
With a strong pulse under the beat,
A song as full as her heart is full
Of the throb of her children's feet.

And I would sing of her proud white breast
That beaches the surfing tide,
Where the black storms lash, and the breakers dash,
And the taunting Southerlies ride;
And I would tell how each darkling night,
The jewels about her heart,
As boat by boat sets out from the Quay,
Like fire-flies spangle and dart.

Oh, Sydney Town, you are my town!
As the sun awakes each morn
And, rising, looks in your thousand eyes
A thousand suns are born;
But a thousand thousand hearts are yours,
And ever more shall be:
City we love! City of pride!
Sydney by the sea!

(Mary Gilmore, from The Passionate Heart, 1918, reproduced in The Collected Verse of Mary Gilmore, ed. by Jennifer Strauss (St Lucia: UQP, 2004)

Yairs. Compare and contrast, in less than 50 words. :)

* I’m sure I could find a cheesier example in the second vol, but I don't want to plunder from it before it's formally published!


Laura said...

Jaysus. Mary's is like a Qantas ad or something. When the edition's out someone should try to get it mentioned in the Qantas mag, they really go in for that sort of thing!

As for the crocodile tears....not as maidlin and sickly as I was expecting, I quite liked some touches, like the cringe and call of nature line.

worldpeace and a speedboat said...

oh kerrist, Ducky, I never knew she wrote such god-awful pap. it doesn't even seem to scan very nicely. plegh...

Ampersand Duck said...

Actually, it's probably one of her better worst ones. I picked it more for it's contemporary popularist nature ;)

worldpeace and a speedboat said...