A decade or so ago my local reading group, with trepidation from some, decided to try a poetry night. The idea was that we’d all bring a favourite poem or two to share. What would I bring? I have some favourite poets from my student days – poets like Gerard Manley Hopkins, T.S. Eliot and William Wordsworth – but was that all I knew about poetry? Well, it just so happened that my brother had given me a few years earlier The Penguin book of Australian women poets (1986) so I hied me thither to see whether anything inspired. And what did I find but one of my favourite writers, Elizabeth Jolley, there ensconced.
Now, fair dealing provisions of the Australian Copyright Act are not clear for poems and anthologies so I won’t reproduce the full poem, “Neighbour woman on the fencing wire”, but here is its beginning and end:
So you’ve bought this place well let me tell you
straight away your soil’s no good all salt even a
hundred and sixty feet down and up on the slopes
is outcrops of granite and dead stumps of dead
wood nothing’ll grow there we know we’ve tried
dead and then there was that pig ate a woman’s
baby right in front of her door mind you I always say –
Says it all really…how can you not laugh along with a writer who writes a poem like this. (It is also published in her book Diary of a weekend farmer, 1993).