Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Ruby Slippers

Naturally, I'm drawn to blog because I'm supposed to be doing something else - in this case writing notes for a well-known revision website about some of the poems on the new GCSE syllabus. The new syllabus doesn't just draw on four modern poets, but mixes and matches instead, and I've been introduced to a number of poems - and poets - which I'd never encountered before. One poet who has struck me deeply is Dorothy Molloy.

Molloy had her first collection, Hare Soup, published in 2004, her second in 2007 and her third in 2009. Well, yes, so what you say? She died from liver cancer ten days before the publication of her first collection, and the two further collections have been compiled by her husband from the poems she left behind. The poem I'm analysing is called 'Les Grands Seigneurs' and it's precisely the sort of poem that appeals to me - black humour, playing on the relationships between men and women (it starts out as a courtly love poem and finishes: 'But after I was wedded, bedded, I became/ (yes, overnight) a toy, a plaything, little woman,/ wife, a bit of fluff. My husband clicked/ his fingers, called my bluff.') But it's the sadness of Molloy's story that appealed most of all.

Hare Soup was hailed as a great 'new voice', as debut collections occasionally are, and I felt tremendous sadness for a woman whom I envisaged as youngish, cut off in her prime, and a great talent whose further work was not to be. As it happens, Molloy was bron in 1942, and I only knew about the first collection when I was imagining her life. But the reality doesn't seem to have made a difference. One of the amazing things about poetry is that occasionally you meet a poem - or a poet - that connects right to you, and then empathy does everything it's supposed to, and you don't need to worry about reality, because the words and the fiction have become a permanent part of your imaginary world.

I think when I'm paid for these notes I might spend the money buying Dorothy Molloy's collections. There might be another gem in there.