Best New Zealand Poems 2002
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RACHEL BUSH was born in Christchurch on Boxing Day 1941. She grew up in Hawera on the west coast of the North Island. As a young woman she wrote short stories, but she became increasingly interested in writing poetry. Her two collections of poetry, The Hungry Woman (1997) and The Unfortunate Singer (2002) are both published by Victoria University Press. She has also appeared in Faber’s Introduction 3 as well as in anthologies and journals such as Sport, Landfall, and The Listener. Until 2003 she was a teacher of English at a secondary school in Nelson.

Bush comments: ‘In the summer of 2002 a friend stayed with me. I’d first met her in 1950, but I hadn’t seen her since 1964. We lost touch soon after that and now she lives in St Petersburg. We talked about Hawera, about growing up in this small rural town close to a beautiful mountain, and how desperate we were to move away from it. And we talked about our families, especially our mothers, how we loved them and took them for granted. It was her mother who knew how to make bread brooches and turn old gramophone records into vases.

People often say that in New Zealand in the 1950s women were preoccupied with housework and did nothing except care for their families and husbands. If they’d been young today, of course these women would have had longer careers in full time paid work and many of them would have had more formal education. Would they have been wiser or happier if they’d had these opportunities? I’m not sure. I do know they were distinct and strong and creative. When my friend went back to St Petersburg, I went on thinking about the mothers I’d known when I was at school. I don’t think I set out to write a poem to celebrate their individuality, but this is what happened. I hope some of their particular ways of being human are clear in this poem. I like seeing their names in a poem. I miss these women. I’m glad I knew them once.’



New Zealand Book Council

Victoria University Press

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