Wednesday, 18 January 2006
Dorothy Molloy, Hare Soup
In the Blackwell's half-price sale you can pick up all sorts of odds and ends. One particularly serendipitous purchase was Dorothy Molloy, Hare Soup, her début collection of poetry (Faber, 2004). I didn't know anything about her but it seems that she died not long after publishing this collection, and was a respected painter. A second collection, drawn from her unpublished papers, is planned for February, entitled Gethsemane Day.
The collection is very good. I wasn't sure about some of her poems at first, but I've come back to them over a couple of days and am increasingly struck by them. The first poem in the collection is called 'Conversation Class'. It is an excellent example of her very startling sense of language, her really clever way of using another language within English, the way that colours mark her striking imagery, and her very complex kind of humour.
I redden to the roots when Jacqueline Dupont zuts
at my French. She cocks her ear and smoothes her coif and
sits me on a poof, settles herself on a chaise-longue.
'Encore une fois,' she zaps, and taps her nails and sips
her Perrier. My tongue is jammed, my teeth are in a
brace. Her hands fly to her face. 'Mon Dieu,' she cries,
'Mon Dieu, qu'est-ce qu'on peut faire?'
I fiddle with my cuticles. She checks her watch and snaps,
'Ouvrez la bouche!' Her forty clocks tick on, tick on.
Her cuckoos coil behind their yodel-flaps. Her grandfathers,
lined up against the wall, come every fifteen minutes
with a boing. 'Finie la classe!' She pours herself
a glass of Armagnac. 'Vous voulez un petit peu?'
I sluice the liquor back.
My tongue is loosed. My eyes are glazed. I sing
the Marseillaise. I feel a revolution
in the red flare of my skirt.