Twenty-one years ago, on the shortest day of the year, our house arrived on a lorry from somewhere in Sweden. By that evening there was a roof on and lights in all the windows. We had moved from Dublin and while we were planning the house I lived with the children in a tiny mobile on my sister and her husband’s land in Moycullen, Co Galway.
My beloved commuted from the big smoke to our little home at the weekend. Our biggest treat was to go to Drimcong to feast on the beautiful food cooked by Gerry Galvin, a fantastic chef and a fine writer to boot. One of his cookbooks had a recipe for Haw Chutney, which took so long to make that it put me in mind of the similar effort involved in the crafting of a poem.
The poem was recently published in Crannóg #40 which is a most handsome journal. I was thrilled to see that Eamonn Lynskey has just given it a very positive review on his blog.
Many times when I read a poem by Geraldine Mills I feel like throwing in the thesaurus as a poet myself because she is so good. ‘Poem as Haw Chutney’ (p.26) is a marvellous creation:
‘Dump all you’ve plucked into the pot of possibility / with tart of vinegar, the wages of salt / raisins dried down to size.’
I’m not saying one could produce a poem using her recipe but the comparison of the skills of preservative-making and poetry making is strangely apposite. The last stanza is particularly applicable to both ‘disciplines’:
‘… and pour into a clean jar of page/ before hiding it in the dark larder of promise, / to mellow, settle, become its own name.’
Poem as Haw Chutney
i.m. Gerry Galvin
First, scour the hedges for word fruit,
vessels crammed to overspill
with scarlet letters, blazing vowels.
Dump all you’ve plucked into the pot of possibility
with tart of vinegar, the wages of salt,
raisins dried down to size.
Add spices that blood was spilt for:
clove, ginger, nutmeg
and simmer in liquids, mutes,
until the kitchen steams
with hissing fricatives
and each thing loses all semblance of itself.
Press the boiling mess through the waiting sieve,
the pulp that’s left behind − metaphor, enjamb
ment − is only fit for compost worms.
Bitter-sweeten the paltry trickle
that finds its way
through the pinhole of mesh
and pour into a clean jar of page
before hiding it in the dark larder of promise,
to mellow, settle, become its own name.