Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Untitled (If You Have Linen Women) by Robin Hyde

If you have linen women, raspberry women
Red and thick of the mouth, with dock-leaf women
(Little light foxy spores – mind them, such women,)
If you have green grape women, flour-bin women,
Amber-in-forest, wild-mint-scented women,
Trey-bit in church or drudging kit-bag women,
Little sad bedraggled wind-has-weazened-one women,
White bean women, perhaps anemone women.
And harp-like facing the starlight women,
Young Bronzey Plumage, what will you do with women?

If you have poppy women, moth-due women
Tinkering wings in the dark... thin alley women
Lit with their scared, bruised eyes, (watch them, such women


Editor: Janis Freegard


I came across this fragment of a poem while browsing through Young Knowledge: The Poems of Robin Hyde, edited and introduced by Michele Leggott  (Auckland University Press, 2003).  I love the richness of the language she uses, the sounds and the building rhythm.  I'm curious to know how she might have finished it.

While a great deal of Hyde’s work is complete, and collected, it got me thinking about how much of literature survives through fragments – the works of Sappho, for example.  A tantalising sliver of a poem can leave us wondering about the whole, the turns it might have taken, the feelings it might have evoked.  In this case, we get the start of the journey, but not the final destination.


Robin Hyde is the pseudonym of Iris Wilkinson (1906–39), a major New Zealand writer of poetry, fiction and journalism.  She was born in Cape Town, South Africa, and brought to Wellington as a baby.  She also travelled to Australia, China and England as an adult. 

Her first book of poetry, The Desolate Star, was published in 1929. She also published the novels Passport to Hell (1936), Check To Your King (1936), Wednesday's Children (1937), Nor the Years Condemn (1938), and The Godwits Fly (1938).

When you've read Robin Hyde's poem get your teeth into the sidebar for up to thirty more poems from our Tuesday Poets.

The Tuesday Poem editor this week is Janis Freegard, author of the poetry collection Kingdom Animalia: the Escapades of Linnaeus (AUP, 2011) and a chapbook The Continuing Adventures of Alice Spider (Anomalous Press, 2013), and co-author of AUP New Poets 3 (2008).  She blogs at janisfreegard.com

9 comments:

Mary McCallum said...

Feels like a poem to me! I love the rhythm and the fabulous energetic compound words and the sudden ending - a thought up in the air... kind of chilling?

Helen Lowe said...

It is tantalizing, isn't it Janis? Thanks for featuring it though--good to be reminded of what an awesome talent Robin Hyde was.

Paula Green said...

This feels like a precursor to Selina Tusitala Marsh's Fast Talkin' PI!

lillyanne said...

I'd forgotten about Robin Hyde so I'm particularly pleased to see this poem - many thanks.

Michelle Elvy said...

Robin Hyde is new to me. Another reason I'm so glad to be part of this group. Thanks for sharing this, Janis. I like the idea you write about 'the start of a journey'. She lived such a short life -- there is a parallel there between all these fragments, I am sure. Will go check out the book now, so thank you.

T. Clear said...

What marvelously original and inventive use of language!

Thanks for turning me on to this poet....

Ben Hur said...

Although it is a fragment, it really seems complete. The ending seems to hang like a wind-chime twisting in a breeze with many possible meanings spinning off in all directions.

I love her inventiveness of language. It's beautiful and vivid. What is a "trey-bit"?

Janis said...

Not sure what a trey-bit is. A "trey" is a card or dice with 3 spots, but I haven't found a reference to a trey-bit yet. Does anyone else know?

lillyanne said...

I think a trey-bit is a threepence piece. Anyone else?