21 June 2011

Tuesday Poem: Janet Frame’s Adversaries Have Their Way. Janet is Lobotomised and Spends Her Life Selling Hats in Oamaru., by Laura Solomon


What good would she have been anyway,
left the way she was, full of dotty ideas, half-crippled by madness?
There’re enough raving lunatics in the world,
we don’t need one more curly-haired crazy,
lolloping about the streets, spilling prophecy.

What good would she have been anyway,
claiming to be from her Kingdom by the Sea,
perching on gravestones in the Otago Cemetery,
staring into the far distance,
like somebody who could see something we couldn’t?

And see her there, so happy, all her pain chopped out, eradicated,
along with all her brilliance. Smiling, always smiling – so what if the eyes look dead?

It’s not visionaries the world needs, but hat sellers.

She was something that could not blend in,
too many sharp angles, too many gaudy colours,
and gawd that hair,
but anything, you’ll find, can be reduced to black and white,
anything can be shoved into a box,
it’s just a question of how much has to be chopped off
in order to get it to fit.

After all, anybody can write a book. It’s retail work that’s tricky,
all those numbers to add up and subtract,
when you tally up at the end of the day (that’s if they choose to grant you such power),
all those hats to keep in those tidy little piles,
same colours, same shapes, all together, all neat,
a place for everything. Everything in its place.

All those people to so faithfully serve.

Don’t ask me who made the mould – somebody else, a long, long time ago.
Who cares now, when that thing was created, or how?
we all managed to squeeze ourselves into it,
so why shouldn’t she be forced to do the same?

Who cares what she could’ve or would’ve achieved,
left to her own devices?

The important thing is that we maimed her while we had the chance,
before she grew too big for the boots we wanted her in.

O please now, children, don’t make a fuss,
She could’ve been one of the greats, they said,
now she’s one of us.

Note: This poem is published in Laura Solomon's collection in vitro (HeadworX, 2011). Look out for my interview with Laura later this week.

You can read all the Tuesday Poems on the Tuesday Poem blog - the featured poem is on the centre of the page, and the week's other poems are linked from the right-hand column.


lillyanne said...

This is such a great poem, one to treasure and return to many times - thanks so much for posting it, Tim.

Kathleen Jones said...

This is chillingly good Tim! and the cryptic conundrum I have to type in to get my comment posted is (suitably) ANGFEL - presumably short for Angel Fell.

Mark Pirie said...

Thanks Tim, look forward to the interview.

Isabel Doyle said...

A fine choice of poem for us, thanks Tim.

ps, if you get a chance, could you pop over and look at 'From the Files' please? I would like to know if it falls into the realm of speculative poetry? - trying to educate myself! (not sure if it classifies even as a poem, but there you are)

best wishes, Isabel

Mary said...

Fine poem - wonderful ending!

Tim Jones said...

Thanks, lillyanne, Kathleen, Mark, Isabel and Mary! There are a lot of fine poems in "in vitro", as evidenced by the number of them that have been posted as Tuesday Poems, but that's the one that really popped out for me. (Hmmm, is "popped out", meaning "stood out", a term I learned from "Project Runway"?)

The interesting thing for me is that, when I was young, Oamaru was regarded as a byword for provincial conservatism in literary circles due to its treatment of Janet Frame, whereas now, the town specialises in the cutting-edge and bizarre, such as proclaiming itself the steampunk capital of New Zealand.

Isabel Doyle said...

Thanks for the advice and compliment Tim - I realise that you are a busy person (with a life!) and appreciate you taking the time to educate me ...

best wishes, Isabel

Tim Jones said...

Thanks, Isabel - I can assure you most sincerely that I would be very happy to have less of "a life" in that sense (not in the medical sense!) and more time to read, write, think and talk about poetry and fiction and books in general.

Having said that, what might otherwise be 'blog time' is currently going into reading submissions for "Eye to the Telescope 2", and that's been very enjoyable so far.

Jenny Woolf said...

Wonderful compassionate poem

Tim Jones said...

Thanks for your comment, Jenny. Indeed it is!