Monday, January 4, 2010

Bernadette Hall

I’ve been dipping into poet Bernardette Hall’s ‘The Lustre Jug’ another Christmas present. I had greatly enjoyed her previous volume ‘The Ponies’ with poems about her visit to Antarctica. This one has poems from her six months on the Rathcoola Fellowship in southern Ireland. Fiona Farrell had a similar stay. The poetry from her experience tended to stress the historical aspect. Hall’s poems inhabit the same place – especially the 19th century potato famine - but they somehow experience the space with a sense of intimacy; it’s where ‘foxgloves are heliotrope thimbles’ and ‘raindrops slide down strings of sunlight’.

The second section of the book begins with poems set in Australia, the brightness of bougainvillea and jacaranda contrasting with the rain-washed green of Ireland. There are pelicans in the land shaped like an angelfish. And then moves to her homeland - crisp, complex, colourful poems full of life. Hall's good at celebrating love as the title poem illustrates. Here is a love poem of hers from an earlier collection which I have always liked ever since I first read it.


the best way yet of testing
it is to put you on a list
e.g. of Akaroa roses:

'solfaterre' a creamy noisette
climbing Napoleon's willow
grown from a slip from St Helena

'souvenir de malmaison'
a true bourbon flowering more
than once a year

'antonia d'ormois'
a blush-white pretty flower
with clear green shoots

'banksia' cascading double white
from Lombardy poplars

'alberic barbier'
yellow buds opening to creamy
white with the fragrance
of green apples

'charles de mills'
tough dark-green leaves
drooping from the mid-rib

'celine forestier'
quartered with flat incurved petals
instead of stamens, a button eye
& the fragrance of spiced tea

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