I watch myself how I use my voice how
much I give away rebellion weighs
against obedience prayer against fantasy
rote against the thrill of words that lately arrive
It was hearing a girl recite Ode to a Cabbage
that made me want to write verse myself
I hide my poems like hoarded love
the taste of secrecy is delicious (Nun-
the-Big-Irish gives the girl curry
when she catches her kissing my cheek)
proving with chalk that poetry has feet
If a thing is not prayer why must it be sacrilege?ˇ/ ˇ/ ˇ/ ˇ/ ˇ/
We are children of rhythm as well as of God
I am learning body worship from a girl who
walks beautifully where else but here
could I rejoice such things? Father,
are you listening? I'm your little exile no more
You would not know me I am metric now
My feet are my own how you will miss me
Posted with permission from Patricia Sykes. From: The Abbotsford Mysteries, Spinifex Press, 2011
TP editor this week: Catherine Bateson.
The Abbotsford Mysteries is a collection of poems which give voice to the complex and varied experiences of girls housed in the Abbotsford convent. As Skyes notes in her acknowledgements, the convent was divided into three 'classes' - St Jospeh's (the orphanage), St Mary's (for country girls and later for migrant girls) and the Sacred Heart (for 'wayward girls' and older women). The stories of these women, gleaned from interviews Sykes conducted with over seventy ex-residents, weave through this powerful collection. But it is also a personal narrative as Sykes and her sisters were placed in the convent after the death of their mother. The poems are vivid, intense and fierce and the language moves easily between wry intimacy and lyrical evocation borrowing its register and intensity from liturgy. You can read another poem from this collection here.
Patricia Sykes is a Melbourne-based poet and librettist. Her poems have won various prestigious Australian prizes including the Newcastle Poetry Prize. She has collaborated with Australian composer Liza Lim to create Mother Tongue, a piece for soprano and 15 instruments, and The Navigator, a chamber opera. These works have been performed both in Australia and in festivals overseas, including the Huddersfield International Contemporary Music Festival, the Festival d'Automne and the Chekhov Theatre Festival. Her two previous poetry collections, Wire Dancing and Modewarre - home ground, were both published by Spinifex Press.
The Abbotsford Convent Foundation is now a not-for-profit organisation committed to fostering creativity, culture and learning. As well as regular events such as festivals, conferences and art and craft markets, over 100 artist studios are housed there.
Hub Editor: Catherine Bateson is a poet and writer for children and young adults. She is currently working on a novel based on her time in Paris, on an Australia Council for the Arts funded residency programme. Her most recent poetry collection, Marriage for Beginners, was published by John Leonard Press.
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