May. 6th, 2009

crazyjane: (moondark)
Since I'm making a conscious effort to read much more poetry, I thought I'd post a few recommendations.

First up is The Fat Lady Sings by Doris Leadbetter.

Doris came late to writing - in fact, it wasn't until after her 'retirement' to Bendigo that she actually took it up on a regular basis, and then, quite by accident. Coming back to Melbourne, she began teaching creative writing at TAFE, and made a real name for herself as a poet, advocate of poetry and general poetry nut. After her death in 2004, her entire collection of poetry, literature and books about writing were bequeathed to NMIT. The collection is some 600 books long, and contains many obscure editions and signed copies.

The Fat Lady Sings was published by Flat Chat Press just after her death. It's a poignant read; many of the poems have a confessional air, where Doris talks frankly about her experiences with aging, and with cancer. There are poems which tackle the idea of body image, and fat and descriptive pieces about country towns which may or may not exist. A particularly marvellous suite called "The Mrs Arthur P. Craven Poems" gives us historic events from the point of view of a fifty-something woman whose holidays include Pompeii in 79CE and the Titanic's maiden (and only) voyage.

Doris' style is chatty, matter-of-fact, and - at times - her tongue is firmly planted in her cheek. She's not afraid to call it how she sees it, and her language reflects that. Even though her language is quite plain, the images she evokes are rich and sometimes startling. In 'Driving Through at Night', her abandoned town is summed up by the beautiful description of the petrol station: " ... the pumps are spidered and the prices long out of date".

As a sample, here's the poem from which the title of the book was taken :

'The Fat Lady's Song' - Doris Leadbetter

When I die don't let them keep the bones
to marvel at the load they bore;
nor the ashes to wonder at the quantity.
Don't offer them the parts that work,
so that others, nearer life, can share my pain.

Break the bones, and spread the ashes
under a lemon tree and roses.
Let me at last bring scent and savour
to the weary lives of those who loved me.
When I die I want to be an ordinary memory.

The Fat Lady Sings is available from Flat Chat Press, and from good independent bookshops. I highly recommend it. If you don't like poetry, give it a go. She'll surprise you.

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