Turtles All the Way Down

Poems by Anne Edgeworth

Illustrations by Bev Wood

(Boris Books, 96pp, RRP $14.95 Australian, ISBN 1 876668 01 6)

Anne Edgeworth (Godfrey-Smith) was born Anne McIntyre in Launceston, Tasmania. She has led an interesting existence as scientist (biochemistry), mother (two sons), theatre director, university tutor (English literature), community radio (ArtSound FM 103.1), writer-in-residence. She has had two selections of poetry published (The Road to Leongatha, Kardoorair Press, 1996 and Poems of Canberra CD and booklet, ArtSound FM, 1997) as well as being published in a number of anthologies. She is the author of a history of the Canberra Repertory Society The Cost of Jazz Garters, 1992, second edition, 1995.

Based in Canberra since 1954, she was awarded the Canberra Citizen of the Year in 1994 for services to the arts. In 1998 she, with two others, was awarded the Sydney University Alumni Award for community service over many years.

Beverley Wood's visual responses to Anne's poems have been a natural and inspirational experience. A long-time friend and admirer of Anne's work she has been challenged to put these responses into another art form — hence the drawings and monoprints.

Like Anne she has a lifetime involvement in the arts and both are regular supporters of varied arts activities in the national capital. Her commercial art work is extensive, her paintings and her drawings have been acquired in Queensland and ACT collections, and as an art educator, more recently at Canberra Girls' Grammar School and The University of Canberra she has influenced many in their art experiences and careers.

The drawings reproduced in this book are part of a wider collection inspired by poems of Anne Edgeworth.

Turtles All the Way Down contains 52 poems by Anne Edgeworth, on themes from environment, politics, relationships and cats.

Here are three of the poems.

Triad for the Twenty-first Century

North west of Canberra Avenue,
sharp against midday blue,
three verticals —

The nearest, hand-hewn stone,
topped by a cross,
points heavenward hopefully, above austere
Presbyterian walls;

Dwarfed by the next — an outsize pyramid
of four steel struts that bear
flagpole and flag bent
above a seat of government,
its occupants hid
from those who put them there;
Inside this Hideout on the Hill,
emptied of vision, courage and compassion,
they parrot on, each after their own fashion;
Even the flag hangs its head
to hear them cringe and scurry at the nod
of distant masters and their money God;

The third, tallest of all, remote
on its high hill, spews out
on every screen:
"Buy! Buy!" "Win! Win!"
for a third world nation
of scared, bemused citizenry, who sit
eyes glazed
        absorbing it

Puppet.gif (6488 bytes)

Pierrot and God

(for Philippe Genty, puppeteer)

Why does this giant stand
behind me, a line
taut in one huge black hand—?
This act is mine!

I’ll twitch it hard and cry:
"Why don’t you go?" ...
What’s this? ... Can it be I
am tied to him? ... O no ...

My head—and hands—and feet—
each have their string ...
I, instrument, repeat
his fingering—?

He who manipulates
these sobs that tear
me, demonstrates
my own despair—?

Now, not his will but mine will tug and break
myself free, line by line,
myself unmake ...

Till finally, I’m free,
though dying here ...
He dead too—without me
no puppeteer ...

He lifts the dead Pierrot
into the wings,
repairs his broken strings
for the next show.

The Hunter

I am four years old, I belong
nowhere, I dive into leaves, my tongue
curls round beautiful words, phrases hung
just out of reach as I climb
and elude me till next time;
There’s jonquil, damp earth smell, heady plum
blossom roaring with bees, raspberry canes
jungle for hunters to hide in, stones
fitting small hands smoothly—hers and mine once
and forever, this four year old wearing
Indian feathers, with bow and arrows in the clearing,
dancing on the outhouse roof daring
invaders to combat ...

            Impatient for the next hill
today she tugs at my arm ...

                I keep up still,
but only just, as she splashes across the pool
hunting treasures in water talk.

                    I can see
one day she’ll be so far ahead of me
I will not catch up with her at all ...

Copyright © Anne Edgeworth, 1999

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