Welcome to the latest offering from the Meow Gurrls. We’re seeing in the new year with three short poems (two wonderful poems from Mary Macpherson – Beach and Holes – and one from me – Forest Song) from the excellent anthology, Short Poems of New Zealand, edited by Jenny Bornholdt and published by Victoria University Press. Every home should have a copy.
I love to know the names of plants. When I was a little girl in South Shields (in the North-East of England), Grandad often took me out for walks and told me the names of the trees we passed. Nanna saved cards from the tea packets for me with illustrations of British birds, trees and butterflies. The collection is long gone but I remember it fondly.
I later went on to study botany at Auckland University and learnt many New Zealand plant names. Now, whenever I walk in the bush, there’s a chant going on in my head of the plants I’m passing (okay, the few I can remember – I’m so rusty). This is where Forest Song came from.
When I was learning the names of plants, I often learnt an incorrect pronunciation of the beautiful Mäori names. In the course of the original publication (in The Glass Rooster by Auckland University Press) and subsequent reprint of the poem, I realised I’d been mispronouncing a couple of tree names for years because I hadn’t known there was a macron over one of the vowels (well done, editors). The rhythm of the poem that had originally been in my head changed as a result, but worked better. I’ve done my best to get the names right in the video, but no doubt there’s room for improvement.
I am lucky enough to live in a home surrounded by many of the species in the poem. Our garden is always singing.