by Rosemary Dobson (18 June 1920 — 27 June 2012)
Swing back the gate till it stumbles over the furrows,
Where the plough swerves close to the fence and the brown earth crumbles
From mountains crested with tossed-up tussocks, to valleys
Runnelled with rivers of rain.
The drops hang bright on the wires, the diligent spider
Worked shifts all night to set up his house by sunrise
Between the hinge, rusted with rain, and the latch.
Who went before through the gate — this affable stranger
Who touches the topmost rail and leans to dazzle,
Spinning his hat for greeting? Morning,
Golden and rakish, who stole his shirt from the scarecrow
To shroud the fire at heart. Good Morning
Swing back the gate, good fellow.
Swing back the gate! There is nobody there. The sunlight
In golden footprints runs up the ridge of the hill.
Rosemary Dobson, a major Australian poet, died this week aged 92. The link at her name, above, leads you to an excellent obituary which gives details of her long life and career. (She began writing poems at the age of seven.) Her Wikipedia entry describes her as 'an award winning Australian poet, who is also significant as an illustrator, editor and anthologist' and goes on to say:
She has published fourteen volumes of poetry, has been published in almost every annual volume of Australian Poetry and has been translated into French and other languages.
The Judges of the New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards in 1996 described her significance as follows: "The level of originality and strength of Rosemary's poetry cannot be underestimated, nor can the contribution she has made to Australian literature. Her literary achievements, especially her poetry, are a testament to her talent and dedication to her art."
Wikipedia also lists her Order of Australia, numerous poetic awards, her fifteen volumes of poetry, her translations of Russian poets and her books of non-fiction. Some of her earlier books are available from Amazon (many of them collectors' items at very expensive prices) and her recent Rosemary Dobson: Collected, published this year, is available from the publisher, UQP (University of Queensland Press). You can find David Malouf's wonderful review of it here. (Malouf himself was known as a poet before he became celebrated as a novelist.)
Another admirer says of her:
She was a very modest, very gracious and graceful lady, self-deprecating, had beautiful manners, always put other people before herself, and was really somebody who concentrated on words, and the still places between words rather than on the public life.
Dobson's work is formal and intellectual, not often what I could imagine myself writing. I chose this piece, however, because my memory is full of mornings and landscapes like that — and for its touch of the mystery which this poet loves. At this link to it at the Australian Poetry Library, you can hear her read it. The site lists 577 of her poems available to be read there, a number of them also accompanied by her own readings.
Poems and photos used in ‘I Wish I’d Written This’ remain the property of the copyright holders (usually their authors).