Wednesday, July 28, 2010

In Praise of Martha

"In Praise of Martha" is the title I've had in mind, for a number of years now, for my next book.
Martha is rather hard done by and I'd like to exult her. I know it's lovely to sit at the feet of the prophet, but unless you are going to go all yogic, someone has to sustain your body whilst you are feeding your soul and that someone is Martha, the original slave-over-a-hot-stove. I don't see why Mary couldn't have helped out with the flatbreads and falafels beforehand. Actually, I don't see why Jesus couldn't have preached in the kitchen and given them both a hand with the washing up.

However.... this weekend just gone I enjoyed a visit from one of my oldest and dearest friends, K, who lives in Canberra and because she is somewhat more informed about life outside of my loungeroom, she told me that our former creative writing teacher, Ron Pretty, was launching his 7th book of poetry the very next day.

So on the Sunday I gussied myself up, waved goodbye to the cherubs and met K at the Friend in Hand pub in Glebe. On a weeknight, it hosts crab races. On the weekends, Poets. I was impressed because it had a sofa, so it was a bit like being in my loungeroom, only more esoteric. I was also happy, in a shallow and vain sort of way, because I'd been dreading turning up to an event 16 years older than when I'd last seen many of those whom I expected might attend, only to realise that I was older but so were they - so it still felt like K and I were among the youngest people there.

Such shallow thinking shows you that I was actually in desperate need of a poetry launch, in need of Brook Emery's passionate introduction to Ron's book - his celebration of a poet and of poetry, the vocation of language - in need of Ron himself reading from his book. I needed to hang my apron on its hook for the afternoon and listen.

"Postcards From the Centre" works with dark themes deftly. To hear an alchemist take the material of the world and turn it into spoken gold, to hear the heft and balance of it, must be a similar experience to that of Mary. Food she did not know she was missing until she tasted it. Food that could never come from the kitchen or the hearth. Language taken seriously, however deft - even playful - is a tool of nourishment and of transcendence.

The spell survived the bus ride home but broke amidst the cacophony of greetings from my best-loved ones. I will always be more Martha but perhaps Ron's book will remind me to listen from the kitchen doorway, at least.

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