Treasuring Poetry – Meet poet and author Elizabeth Merry and a reviewPosted: April 17, 2021
Today, I am delighted to introduce you to author and poet, Elizabeth Merry. I came across Elizabeth’s poetry and writing quite recently and was bowled over by her powerful words and messages.
First, I would like to send a million thanks to Robbie Cheadle for this opportunity; it is much appreciated.
My favourite poem from my own collection is The Red Petticoat, which I wrote for my mother. When I was very young, anyone with relations in America was always on the lookout for parcels. Besides the red petticoat I remember winter coats for my sister and myself. Mine was grey and red check and hers was chocolate brown with pompoms – I was so jealous of those pompoms! Well, here is the poem:
THE RED PETTICOAT
I remember the rustle
Of the red, exotic petticoat
The pick of a parcel
Delight crackled in her hair
Exploded in a sudden flush
On her alabaster skin
The lighthouse sweep and beam
Of her glad eyes
Lit us all, haloed the room
Where we stood in a row
Long left that room, that house
The woman has gathered her years
Carefully, tucked them primly away
Scented and folded neatly
Facing the rest
With a lifted chin
A grin and a new hat
The glow of the red petticoat
About her still.
I don’t favour any particular genre, although when I read through the collection it seems that most of them are about my own life – I’m sure that says something about me – not too complimentary! However, I do have a love for writing haikus, especially when I’m out walking along the river, counting syllables under my breath! And as opposed to the poems, the haikus are generally about nature, the river itself, and all the trees and plants along its banks. I’m lucky to have many lovely walks right beside where I live.
Sometimes it takes a long time to write a poem; it arrives in separate words and phrases on different days, weeks, months even. Other times it appears almost complete and all at once; you hardly have to work on it, just write it down.
For my own reading pleasure I appreciate poems that I can understand. At school (a long time ago) we were taught how to interpret poems; the teachers explaining what the poet meant, and what he (it was always a “he” in those days) was referring to – it could be something from Greek or Roman mythology. Just because a poem is easy to understand doesn’t mean it isn’t clever or wonderful. My favourite poem is one of Séamus Heaney’s which illustrates exactly what I mean. Here it is:
Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.
Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground;
My father, digging. I look down
Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.
The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.
By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.
My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.
The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.
Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.
Isn’t that sublime? Although some of Heaney’s poems are extremely long and convoluted and steeped in the classics of Irish and European tradition, the poems in this, his first, collection, are accessible to anyone, and are filled with a sort of magic. Death of a Naturalist was published in 1966. Heaney received the Nobel Prize in 1995. Again I would like to thank Robbie for this opportunity I have enjoyed the experience very much.
Minus One: With Haikus and Other Poems: The Story of a Life by Elizabeth Merry
What Amazon says
This collection sums up the life of the poet. It begins with memories of her parents, in The Red Petticoat: “The lighthouse sweep and beam/Of her glad eyes/Lit us all, haloed the room/Where we stood in a row/To admire.” And in Minus One: “Your absence grips my throat/Chokes my breath . . . How much of you is me/Stretching to close the circle?” Other poems cover growing up and speak of friends and lovers, moving forward to parenthood and beyond, to old age in Bones: “Don’t look too close/Disintegration has begun/And death will lend it speed/Until my bones are bare and/Waiting for the second coming . . . ” And to death in Mortality: “Tombstones/Pale and cold/Line up, waiting/For my name . . . ” Throughout the collection there are sections of Haikus, many with accompanying photographs: “Child of my child, I/scoop you up and hug you, breathe/you in and keep you.” References to the sea and the harbour move through this collection, lending a special atmosphere. These poems are filled with the many emotions of our lives and will appeal to all of us.
This is a beautiful collection of poetry about the life of the poet including both great moments and sad moments. The poetry comprises of freestyle poems and some lovely and moving haikus which are accompanied by beautiful photographs.
I have not as yet lost anyone very close to me so the first poem Minus One was very compelling for me. I could imagine the pain of loss in these words:
“My magic circle broken
The first one
To close his eyes”
The rest of this poem brought tears to my eyes.
The small dark man was quite a frightening poem. A tale of a man who has become bitter and angry due to life burdens. He has lost his way and turned to alcohol for solace. Such a disappointment for his children who remember better days. A few compelling lines:
“We waited – wary
His face shut tight against us
Like a fist”
There is a sense of loss but joy in memory in the poem In a Yellow Dress:
“If I could put you
In a frame
And freeze forever
Those wanton curls”
My favourite haiku in this collection reminds me of my own sons when they were little … and even now that they are big lads. There is nothing more emotional than your child or, I imagine, you grandchild:
“Child of my child, I
scoop you up and hug you, breathe
you in and keep you”
Purchase Minus One: With Haikus and Other Poems: The Story of a Life by Elizabeth Merry
New Children’s books by Elizabeth Merry
Elizabeth has just released two new books for middle school children.
Ghosts in Trouble
Lizzie blamed Cormac. Stealing the silver tea-set was all his idea, and now they can’t get into heaven until it’s returned to Old Whelan. They need help, but who can they turn to?
“I’ve just thought, Cormac. That awful cousin of yours, Imelda. The house is hers now. Hers and poor Dermot’s and those noisy twins, David and Dora.”
Might it be possible for them to make friends with the twins?
“Lizzie stopped short as the front door was suddenly thrown open and in rushed the cold, night air, followed by two large children who tripped over the boxes in the hall and fell down laughing.”
Things get even more complicated when the villain, John the Pots, gets involved. He wants the tea-set for himself; he could sell it for a lot of money.
“Someone moved in the dark. Someone who peered and moved, his eyes raking the house and garden . . . “
All seems lost until Cormac and Lizzie meet Jamesy, an old ghost who knows a lot, and has an idea, but will it work . . .
Felix finds out
Hennessy is the school caretaker. He is also a devious thief and a bully. Felix is ten years old, a quiet boy, and small for his age. How is he to find out what Hennessy is up to? ‘Felix wondered where Hennessy was. As he thought of the tall figure in the heavy anorak, his mouth went suddenly dry, his heart leaping and banging, his whole face squeezed up with frowns.’But when a new girl arrives at the school, Felix watches her closely; this could change everything. She might suit as an accomplice.'”Hello, I’m Samantha. Is your name really Felix? That’s a good name, I think.”‘Can Felix and his new friend find out what Hennessy is up to, and save Uncle Eddie’s job? Samantha has a plan!