Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Happy International Women's Day

Happy International Women's Day - and a great big thank you to all the women in my life who nurtured me, mentored me, befriended me and generally enriched my life. My grandmother, Coy Bateson - who went to the races, soon after I was born, with the strict intention of winning my layette - and did just that, ill as she was. My mother, Louise Campbell, whose generosity of spirit and intelligence awes me. Above all else, she taught me to try to be compassionate. She also declared me a poet, is my first-stop editor and is an unfailing optimist. My best mothering decisions are due to her. My daughter, Helen Kempton - it has been a privilege watching her grow and change and become the young woman she is now - another generous person, emotionally sensitivite and yet with a tough, stubborn side that will stand her in good stead. I like her, as well as love her with all my heart.

Poets such as Barbara Giles, Bev Roberts, Judith Rodriguez, Kristin Henry and Aileen Kelly who offered me mentorship, friendship and companionship on the writing journey. Leonie Tyle - where would I be without her saying, 'Just a little bit more work, darling, you can do it!' Clare B. who occupies a similar place in my thesis life.

Teaching colleagues, all of whom put such enormous effort into their work - Heather and Olivia - whose vision got the Professional Writing Course up and running in Gippsland - Linda and Cora who work so hard, against real odds, to keep teaching it, Helen M. at Box Hill.

My students, who often battle insecurities, illness, chaotic home lives, the demands of children and partners and financial difficulties but still turn up to class, wanting - or needing - to write.

I don't want to list friends - but considered all of you loved and honoured on this day. Polly - thanks for the girlie advice and the proofreading - you know how much I need the latter and enjoy the former. Maureen - thanks for your blue room, music and joyfulness.

This was a poem I wrote years ago, when I was living in Abbatoir Town and belonged to a book club.

Book Club

If you walk round Safeway in our town
watch for the schoolgirls pushing prams
their boyfriends loping behind them
like leashed hunting dogs.
It is International Women’s Day.
I wasn’t going to, I said no,
we bought a bottle of JB
went down to the river -
he said nothing happens the first time.

If you walk round Safeway in our town
listen out for the women talking in the cereal aisle,
toddlers safely trapped in the top shelf of the trolley.
It is International Women’s Day.
He couldn’t help it really, two years of the dole
all the bills come at once,
he didn’t mean it, but it makes it harder
to forgive next time.

Middleaged women sit round the edges of a room
condemning Down Among the Women.
It is book club night, International Women’s Day.
That was then, one of us says, back in the seventies.

If you walk round Safeway in our town
listen to us, the women, buying fruit and vegies
five serves a day, low-cal milk 97% reduced fat,
all natural never been tested guaranteed shine and lustre.
After fourteen years he just left.
Car payments, school fees, the Visa bills.
You can’t protect yourself, it happens all the time.

If you walk round Safeway in our town
watch for the women.
At midnight, in the dairy foods they crab over,
curses flying from the grey knots in their hair
they dance a cracked dance among packets of mozarella
the edam half moons, the forbidden camembert.
There’s a new girl in town, they’ve her made from butter and cream,
from dressmaker’s shears and a slurp of straight gin.
She’s strong as a butcher’s block, cuts like a boning knife.
She’s your daughter and mine, dreaming in technicolour
and full surround sound, muscular, stubborn
a new girl down among the women.


gerry said...

I loved the way you have taken out time to personally thank each of those women who have touched your life in different ways. The poem is truly very's about commonplace life yet it sounds unique and close to the heart. Do drop by my blog too for I am sure you'd love your visit.

mother said...

Hey, that's a really lovely tribute and I appreciate it, not just on my account but on my mother's too. Wish she could have known what we'd share .... and hope you and Helen have the same happy experiences as we've had and get through any hard times like we did, too.Really think the best attribute that the women in our family passed on from generation to generation was faith in themselves to meet any situation ...