Sunday, November 16, 2008


It's my birthday tomorrow - 21 again! - so I'm celebrating it here by posting up this rather marvellous compilation of kd lang stills alongside her smoky version of The Joker:

And to follow that, this is a birthday-related poem from my first poetry collection, published by Bloodaxe Books in 1997, The Brief History of a Disreputable Woman:

Cherchez la Femme

There is rain
on the windows when I am born
no cries
into a cold November.
The midwife is Caribbean,
complaining of these British winters
even as I slide
into her arms.

Rain becomes my season.
I walk out under the dark clouds
like a missionary
preaching the world of the wet.
I kneel on the earth,
put my face to the dampness
like a child
hidden in her mother's skirt.

Later, unable to wear lace,
I finger photographs
of beautiful women.
Run my hands along lapels,
loving the coarseness of a country tweed,
the brisk crease of a man's shirt.
I sit apart,
smoke French cigarettes,

my room dark with desire.
Each night it falls at my window
like sharp insistent rain.
My desire is insatiable.
It has many names.
Watching through streaked glass,
I know none of them.


Sorlil said...

Happy, happy birthday to you!
Lovely poem, some gorgeous lines in there.

BarbaraS said...

Have a great day on your birthday. Cherchez la Femme makes great reading - very sparky.

Jane Holland said...


Got a scarf and gloves from the husband and kids - credit crunch!! - so had to troll out and buy MYSELF the chocolates I'd been secretly hoping for: 'Lindor' from Lindt, those little red balls that melt in your mouth.

Hmm, that sounds a bit rude. But they taste delicious!

And my birthday resolution is to start work in earnest on a teen sci-fi novel I've been thinking about. But if someone doesn't buy one of these novels soon that I keep writing and sending out into the void, it'll be the checkout uniform for me in 2009!

Rushes off, horrified by that prospect, to do some serious writing.

Bo said...

Happy, happy, happy birthday!!!!!! much love xxxx

PJ Nolan said...

Happy Birthday Jane! What better present than a run of productive creativity into the day itself! Enjoy.

Rachel Fox said...

Like this line very much
'preaching the world of the wet.'
Not even sure why - just do!

Women Rule Writer said...

Belated birthday greetings, Jane.
I know the checkout girl scenario - I threaten myself that I will end up in Supermac's (Irish McDonald's type place) if I don't keep working HARD. Meanwhile, the books pile up behind me and the publishers say 'No'. Sniff. (Not completely true - I recently got a big fat 'Yes!') But I have several unpublished books if anyone else wants to get on board...!

Jane Holland said...

It's a very early effort, this poem. Prose-like, yet rhythmic enough to be recognisably a poem.

I wonder why, though, I chose to break the stanza almost at the end of that sentence, so that one stanza ends with 'unfiltered' and the next begins 'my room dark with desire.' It seems almost contrary and I'm not sure what effect - if any - I was aiming for.

Yet I'm also not sure whether I would change it if I get the chance to, i.e. in a Selected. It jars, but perhaps it's meant to. Too smooth is often worse than clumsy or awkward, if only because it makes a poem too clean, too self-aware and professional-sounding. All the i's dotted etc.

Poems with a slightly ragged edge just appeal to me more, I guess.

Steven Waling said...

Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday, dear Jane

Happy birthday to you!

Michelle said...

Hope it was a good one, Jane.

I particularly like the final two stanzas of "Cherchez la Femme". Thanks for posting it.