Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Tuesday Poem: Excavating the Bones


We are excavating the bones
studying emotional geology,
reconstructing from nodes and fractures
an unfamiliar landscape we know
only from photographs, scraps of text,
torn pages from a life lived
beyond our knowledge.  We
finger the calcified digits,
a fragment of cloth, a brooch;
grave goods. But they are only
themselves, animated by our need
to articulate the skeleton,
colour in the blanks, bridge absences,
construct a narrative out of shards.

Copyright Kathleen Jones
Katherine Mansfield and the (Post) Colonial
2014

My copy of Katherine Mansfield and the (Post) Colonial has just arrived on the doormat and it has some fascinating essays on Katherine Mansfield and particularly the new material which I was allowed, by her family, to use in order to write her biography. The family subsequently re-homed the manuscripts in the Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington, New Zealand so they are now available to the public.  Their collection contained many revelations about Katherine's writing life and some very poignant personal material which I was lucky enough to have first access to. It underlined just how much biographers have to rely on physical evidence - like archaeologists - and a missing fragment can crucially alter the picture you construct.

I wrote this sonnet at the Katherine Mansfield Conference at Ruzomberok in Slovakia - it's about biography, which is a sort of archaeology, and its limitations.  We can never really know.   There's also a lot of intuition involved - the phrase 'emotional geology' is the title of a wonderful novel by Linda Gillard and it really does describe the process of going down through the layers of personality from public to private in order to understand what motivated the subject fundamentally.

Why not pop over to the Tuesday Poem hub and see what the other Tuesday Poets are posting?  The hub poem this week is an off the wall post from Australian poet Zireaux.  It's called Bonsai by Cecily Barnes, who may or not be American, and which was previously published in Harper's Magazine. Enjoy!

Katherine Mansfield:  The Story-teller is available in hardback, paperback and as an e-book from all good bookshops and on
Amazon.co.uk  and
Amazon.com




2 comments:

  1. I love the poem.
    I love the analogy as well.

    At least you don't have to write your biographies on your knees scraping with a trowel and a brush. Probably feels like that sometimes,

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