I’ve chosen a poem by (Mary) Ursula Bethell this week (1874 – 1945). She was born in England, moved to New Zealand as a child, returned to London as an adult, but finally settled in Christchurch with her close companion, Effie Pollen. The poem is ‘Detail’ and it was first published under the pseudonym Evelyn Hayes in From a Garden in the Antipodes (Sidgwick & Jackson, London, 1929)
You can read more about Ursula Bethell at the following links
My garage is a structure of excessive plainness,
It springs from a dry bank in the back garden,
It is made of corrugated iron,
And painted all over with brick-red.
But beside it I have planted a green Bay-tree,
– A sweet Bay, an Olive, a Turkey Fig,
– A Fig, an Olive, and a Bay.
Fantastic poem. The first time I read it, I didn’t properly digest the title in relation to the poem, so that when I got to the end of the poem, my reaction was, “Hmmm… this poem is very detailed.” Then, of course, I went back and saw the title, and I’m like, “Oh yeah, that’s what she wanted me to say.”
Certain rooms in my home beg of me to immortalize them the same way. What’s funny is that lately I’ve been considering planting a fig tree. Maybe this is a sign?
I enjoyed the contrast between the plainness of the garage and the profusion and complication of the plants.
Thanks for your comments Bryan and Miriam. I like how Bethell’s poem is quite simple but paints a vivid picture. And you get a real sense of her love of trees.
This is perhaps my favourite Bethell poem. Understated, perfect.
That’s interesting, Miriam, because to me the garage being excessively plain is plain but not simple – there is detail there that demands longer lines, adjectives, colour… attention! With the trees, Bethell strips them of detail until they are just their names, nothing else – no colour, no provenance… the names alone are redolent and beautiful and … Although I did wonder, too, if the names in lines showed lines of trees, so more than three …