Saturday 25 May 2024

What's in a name?

This week's Write Poetry with Sara-Jane Arbury had three poems where the link was that each poet had used people's names in the poem.

The first exercise was to think of a person I knew in my childhood. We were asked to write a poem describing a childhood memory involving them. And to include in the poem what happened to them later in life, if we knew!


Two cousins, each an only child;
The nearest thing to sisters.
Our annual foray into Wales
Each set of parents taking both. 

My parents took us to Borth
A seaside mobile home.
We slept in a double bed.
She turned over and I
Landed on the floor. 

Her parents took us to Cornwall
Not Wales! And stranger still
To my young mind she brought
A friend who seemed much older
Than the two years between us.
Two of us vying for the attention
Of the third. My cousin. Her friend.
Who patted a horse which bit me. 

The friend was replaced by a boy
And I was left behind.
No longer our annual shenanigans
As he became her life. 

Years passed. Her children.
My child born so much later.
Our paths diverged.
Distant friends but always cousins.
Weddings, funerals, Christmas sometimes. 

My memories are fresh as if
It happened yesterday.
But watched as her memories
Crept away until Hilary
no longer knew me.
And was no more

Artwork by Valerie Sjodin

The third exercise was to write a poem exploring the word music in your name or someone else’s.  I'm not sure I actually followed that brief.

Oh and I missed out exercise 2 altogether!

What’s in a name? 

rhymes with furnace
the heat of which burns
within me as those
who know me well and
those who don’t
pronounce it differently. 

Bneice (buh-kneesss)
Even my Aunt
used this version when
she should have known better. 

Then there are those who
when I say my name
speak it back to me
with a different pronunciation;
As if I hardly know
the sound
of my own name.
I’ve lived with it for over 70 years. 

Berenice (Bay-ren-each-ay)
I once was called Berenice
The Headteacher spoke it out
in a whole school assembly.
Imagine the giggles - not mine!
But I’m not a Queen of Egypt
or even from an opera.
The Act 2 minuet used as
the entrance music
at my first wedding. 

Bringer of Victory
Greek source of my name
And Nike too.
Ironic for a woman who
Barely walks, let alone runs. 

rhymes with furnace
the heat of which burns
fiercely as mispronunciations
assail my ears.
Am I not worthy of my own name? 

It’s too late to change
to something easier like Ann.
Or would there still be a problem?
With spelling rather than saying.
With or without the E.

Thanks for being here today
(rhymes with furnace!)

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