Mary MacRae’s second collection
published Aug 10 by Second Light Publications. See order form (pdf file) for discount offers
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Round 10, Month 5: Myra Schneider judged this month’s competition and selected Anne Ryland’s poem, For a Daughter as her winner. Her four commended poems are by Maggie Butt, Angela Platt, Marg Roberts, and Merryn Williams.
My name would not be your middle name.
You wouldn’t inherit my listomania, I promise:
I’d renounce list-making in honour of your birth.
The term Muscular Dystrophy would not be sewn within you.
I would not pass on my stony ova
or the euphemisms stuffed up the sleeve like handkerchiefs.
Thank You wouldn’t be your mantra; it trapped me at the amber light.
You wouldn’t stare at every dog and see only its bite.
You would never know that ‘worry’ derives from ‘wyrgan’, to strangle:
I’d lock the door to my mother’s worrymongery
but I would be your guide in the storehouse of the thesaurus,
assure you there’s no such curse as being too clever.
I’d even show you how to blow a trumpet in a long and steady tone.
My desk and my blue propelling pencil would be yours.
I’d hand you your great-grandmother’s last letter to her daughter
from the hospital – ‘bye bye, dear’
All my words would be yours, so you’d observe me on the page,
learn all that I am and was and should have been.
And, my daughter, each night I’d hum you a lullaby.
You would remember me as a song, not an apology.
Poem published: Mslexia, No. 34. Runner-up, Mslexia Women’s Poetry Competition, 2007.
‘For a Daughter’ immediately caught my attention and it impressed me more each time I read it. Anne Ryland says so much in this list poem written in end-stopped couplets and single lines. The list is of promises made to a would-be daughter. She uses the list to characterize her mother’s ‘worrymongery’ and repressiveness by stating what she would not pass on to a daughter. At the same time she shows that her own submissive behaviour is due to her mother. The poem turns round in the middle when Ryland describes how she would offer ‘my words’, revealing a strong and exuberant side of herself. The poem is poignant – near the beginning of it we learn in she won’t pass on her ‘stony ova’. With its striking language and imagery and honesty it is also potent.