Pilgrimpace's Blog

for holocaust memorial day: fragment
January 27, 2012, 1:03 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

As I contemplate Holocaust Memorial Day, I found this in the excellent Poetry Magazines:


When I was young, I was determined not to turn into a professional refugee. Willy-nilly though, that is what I seem to have become.

I was born in the Sudeten, the once-German-speaking part of Czechoslovakia. I came over at the age of eleven and, as I was surrounded by English speakers, my reading had caught up with my own age group before three months were out. In any case, I was reading Browning’s Pied Piper to myself and, came the summer holidays, What Katy Did. Conversely, my mother, in a letter from Prague, fretted that my German was deteriorating.

If I had caught up linguistically, poetically there was a time-lag. My first English poem, written at the age of twelve was no better than one I had composed (in my pre-literacy days) at the age of four (proud parents had entered this into my ‘Baby’s Diary’) and a poem I wrote at the age of sixteen was on a level with one I had written at the age of eleven, just before leaving home.

However, a change of language is only one of many handicaps that may beset the aspiring poet. There is work, a lack of privacy, living on the margin of things and, yes, even courtship, to hinder and distract one.

I have written extensively but not exclusively about the past. The past is profoundly with me. My first return visit to my home town was deeply moving – and quite productive!

Yet ultimately I’d like to be thought of as an English poet – however obscure a one. And to end on a cheerful note – I have written square poems, pointed poems, star-shaped poems – my poems have been a-round.


My father lifted
a mouthorgan up
to the wind on a hill

and the wind of Bohemia
sighed a few
frail and blue notes

man and child
in a harebell light
frail ghosts… faint tune

Gerda Mayer
                      Fragment, first published in Ariel, 1971


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