Thursday, October 9, 2008

To us all Flowers are Roses

In this post I asked you guys what title you'd give a poem written by Angel Girl. I got a few awesome titles, but I also got some perspective on the notion of titles and how to eat a poem. Linda said that a poem just is, and can exist quite well without a title, although, she pointed out, a poet may want to send his reader in a certain direction with a title. Geoffery noted that we can simply love a poem without poking and probing at it.

Lorna Goodison, a leading West Indian poet has done some very interesting things with titles as with poems; several of her titles are poems, stories by themselves, for example there is

- The woman Speaks to the Man who has Employed her Son which uses irony to capture the betrayal of some 'role models' who send young men to commit crimes,

- and there is For my mother (May I Inherit Half her Strength) -the story of a woman who wasted (it seems to me) half her enormous strength on her sweet-talking man, and nurtured nine children with the other half.

-and then there is Annie Pengelly- what a weird name for a poem! A lawyer has filed a suit on Annie Pengelly's behalf against her tormentor- her white owner who deprived her of countless hours of sleep, now history owes her her rest.

Two of these poems are from her sixth collection To us All Flowers are Roses. The poem that bears the title is a magnificent invocation of many place names in Jamaica, most of which range from the silly to the sublime, but all of which reflect our robust personality. Enjoy the first two stanzas of the title poem:

To us all flowers are Roses

Accompong is Ashanti, root, Nyamekopon. Appropriate name, Accompong, meaning warrior or lone one. Accompong, home to bushmasters, bushmasters being maroons, maroons dwell in dense places deep mountainous well sealed strangers unwelcome. Me No Send You No Come.

I love so the names of this place how they spring brilliant like "roses" (to us all flowers are roses), engage you in flirtation. What is their meaning? Pronunciation? A strong young breeze that just takes these names like blossoms and waltz them around, turn and wheel them on the tongue.


For the rest of the poem she groups the names in various categories; those that originated from Europe, those from Africa, those from Israel, those that express our frustrations, those that reflect our eternal faith. So there are lines like:

"at Bloody Bay where they punctured balloons"


"Rhine and Calabar, Askenish where freed slaves went to claim what was left of the Africa within"


"and Wait a Bit, Wild Horses, Tan and See, Time and Patience, Unity"


"There is Amity and Friendship and Harmony Hall"


"and Tranquility and Content. May Pen"

If you want to read any of the poems in it's entirety, drop me an email from my profile. To get a peek into the collection To us all Flowers are Roses click this spot, and to chat with me about this post click the comments button below :-).


Jacqueline Smith said...

Blogger messed with my line breaks. Sorry about that.

Ruthibelle said...

We studied Goodsion for CAPE... admitting that I found it laborious at the time (I was sooo into prose and drama... dunno why, but poetry never grabbed me till later!)

For My Mother is a Caribbean classic, and I know only too many people who love love love that poem! (me included).

Guinea Woman is another great poem, just teeming with latent energy (ask my Lit teacher what that means, lol... yes I studied stuff for CXC almost verbatim if I thought the teacher/anybody else in the class expressed an idea eloquently enough...). I especially loved the last line.. listen children, it's great-grandmother's turn... wow!!

There were some poems that I never got though. Caravanserai was one of them. The whole class was like, what the...?? We just didnt get it.

Which makes me wonder why some poets have to be so cryptic in their writing. Reading, and even moreso, understanding their poems is like trying solve this huge puzzle. Goodison is sometimes like that for me. Just (I figure) very heavy stuff that I dont get yet.

Lucky for me, this last poem is nice and simple... to us all flowers are roses... I get it. And it's beautiful.

Thanks for sharing.

*End of rant*

Ruthibelle said...

PS, we have some niiice names for our towns here, dont we??

Jacqueline Smith said...

I prefer prose myself, I'm not too keen on drama. Just the layout of words on the page is a big turn off for me. So no matter how fantastic a play is, I probably won't read it unless I have to, or unless it is highly recommended by a friend. But there are some classics I'd like to read someday.

I did A levels and studied mostly T.S Elliot for poetry, it was cryptic but fun- I like puzzles. I enjoy jigsaws, sudoko, and crosswords, and some others. My hubby and I used to buy puzzle books and spend hours poring over them (when we weren't clutching joysticks playing games like FIFA football or need for speed). So maybe that's why cryptic in poetry doesn't bother me.

I don't think I've read those two you mentioned. But I think I fell in love with Goodison in April when a friend of mine who was studying her poetry said to me Lawd Missis, si if yuh can mek sense a dem ya fi mi. I had fun mekking sense of them and actually infused her with the joy of reading them.

Yeah we've got interesting town (and country) names like
Comfort Hall
Harry Watch
Guinea Corn (I'm serious)
Breast Works
Macca Tree

Then there are all the various Pens

Plus there is
Tel Aviv

Stunner said...

I'm not that good at poetry :(

Abeni said...

We have a Harmony hall in SVG as well. Names of places fascinate me

Jacqueline Smith said...


And probably took my stuffy, teacher self and reminded you of why you didn't like poetry in high school. I'm sooo sorry... but aren't you fascinated (like Abena is)with the names we have given to our places? I just love that Lorna captured the rhythm and the symbolism in some of the names.

Tiffany said...

Can anyone please explain to me what for my mother (may i inherit half her strength) is really about. I'm not quite sure of some of the details..
Poetry test tomorrow
pleaseee help and thanks

Jacqueline Smith said...

Hi Tiffany, I actually typed out a long response today, but had the misfortune of having my pc malfunction just as I was about to publish my comments. It's too late for me to help you for tomorrow's test now, but I'd be more than happy to offer you some help with the 20 poems, so drop me a line here and let's talk.