No, I haven’t come over all horticultural (my current back garden is entirely laid to concrete, although I did once grow a few nice flowers in pots – cue unnecessary picture of them, taken a year ago).
So, where was I – not horticultural, but almost equally unusual for Stuck-in-a-Book, because today I’m talking about poetry. I’ll confess, I don’t know much about poetry – but every now and then it just hits the spot. And today the poetry is The Art of Gardening by Mary Robinson. The collection is inspired by a whole spectrum of things – nature, memories, other writers such as George Orwell and Karel Capek – and even a series inspired by Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space, chunks of which I read last year.
The Art of Gardening was sent to me by the publisher (Flambard Press) but I have to be completely open about this and say that Mary Robinson is a family friend I’ve known all my life. The Robinson family lived near us in Merseyside – and, while we’ve moved further and further southwards, they went northwards, and we’re now at the extremes of the country. As a family with an arty Mum, a vicar Dad, and twin sons, they’re not dissimilar from the Thomas family…
Anyway – that’s the picture set, and it would feel far too weird for me to write a review of the collection, so instead I’m just going to type out my favourite poem in the collection and encourage you to go and get yourself a copy!
Don’t go my mother said
standing under the apple blossom
wearing that long baggy cardigan
snagged and pilled like a neglected paddock.
How could we not go?
I was doing a last round of the house
checking for something forgotten
but in reality saying farewell.
The removal men had gone.
I looked out of the wash-house window
and there she was, unchanged
after twenty years.
The spring before I started school
she had shown me the alphabet
under the apple tree – pale petals fell on the paper
as she traced the shapes with her self-taught hand.
Years later I was reading my own books.
In the evenings she banged out campaigning letters,
the old manual typewriter resounding to the clack
of rage and the rasping roller of frustration.
Now my last sight of her will always be
under the apple tree –
Don’t go she said.