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The Talking Stick: O Pookering Kosh / Raine Geoghegan

The Talking Stick: O Pookering Kosh

By: Raine Geoghegan

“One of the enduring joys of poetry is ‘encounter’. As readers, if we are open to it, we can encounter the imaginative world of the poet in all of its rich variety. The Talking Stick: O Pookering Kosh by Raine Geoghegan brings the reader into direct contact with Geoghegan’s Romani tradition. This is a generous book that does not shy from describing discrimination, bullying, and importantly the child’s eye view of e...
Pub Date Sunday, June 12, 2022
Page Count 90
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“One of the enduring joys of poetry is ‘encounter’. As readers, if we are open to it, we can encounter the imaginative world of the poet in all of its rich variety. The Talking Stick: O Pookering Kosh by Raine Geoghegan brings the reader into direct contact with Geoghegan’s Romani tradition. This is a generous book that does not shy from describing discrimination, bullying, and importantly the child’s eye view of encountering her ‘difference’ in ‘the welfare of settled rings’ (Allen Fisher, Dispossession and Cure). Yet, the reader could never mistake this book for a polemic of confrontation. Geoghegan’s “O Pookering Kosh” evinces a sure hand imbued with a deft musicality that sings through each and every page. There is a lightness of touch and generosity in this book. Geoghegan has provided a language glossary at the base of each of the poems in the book.
     Our encounter with Geoghegan’s tradition is carried in songs like “O Lillai Gillie” and the Romani laying-out tradition unfolds before our eyes in the beautiful “A song to rest the tired dead’. In our century of movement and ‘not-at-homeness’ caused by wars, climate change and by human desperation, we are confronted with the importance of the stories that we tell and how they are carried from place to place. Geoghegan’s “The Gypsy Camp at Auschwitz” is a stunning exposition of human cruelty and survival at the most desperate time in our human history, her handling of this theme is both visually arresting and tonally perfect. Geoghegan’s work demonstrates an embodiment of remembrance. When I first published Raine Geoghegan’s work, I was taken by the sound and rhythm of the song “O Lillai Gillie”. It truly delights me that her work will reach a wider audience."

Chris Murray
Poet, Founder of Poethead and Curator of Fired, an archive for Irish women Poets and the Canon (2017-2019)

“Raine Geoghegan’s poetry is like stepping inside another world. Gently, she guides you through her culture with word vision and much beauty. She transports your imagination as flower-buds seek precious light.”
Jess Smith
Scottish Traveller Writer, Storyteller and Author

“The poems in Raine Geoghegan’s The Talking Stick: O Pookering Kosh are mainly based around family history and steeped in Romany culture and language. It feels like a privilege to be granted such insight to a people who are, for most of us, mysterious. This is not a romantic or sentimental view. The cruelty of their being moved on or forced into houses, and the horror of the Romany genocide in Auschwitz are shown as well as fondness for established traditions. However, it takes more than interesting content to make poems and the rhythms of the mixed English and Romany, as well as precise earthy detail, make fine poetry.”  
Dr. Angela France
Senior Lecturer and Poet, University of Gloucestershire

“The poems and prose in The Talking Stick: O Pookering Kosh display a disappearing way of Romany life. Many of these pieces are set in Herefordshire where her family used to pick hops and fruit. They emanate a far-reaching emotional power that gently wakes the reader. They sway between the fortune tellers, the mouth organ, the wagons and the long road. Geoghegan cherishes memory and makes it work for her in these bold and heartwarming poems. Her voice is fresh and uncomplicated, we hang on her every word. She wastes nothing, ‘purple and red of women’s scarves/ men’s ties.’ You get the sense of a much respected and caring community. The earthiness exists in every poem, the yearning, the longing, the belonging. Geoghegan’s world is populated with children and mothers and much-loved fathers, aunts and uncles. She never forsakes the dead. Some pieces have a niggling fear of displacement in a way that is fearless and matter of fact.  This collection is stunningly real.”
Rita Ann Higgins
Poet & Playwright

Raine Geoghegan

Raine Geoghegan, MA, is of mixed heritage, English, Romany, Welsh and Irish. She is a performance poet, prose writer, playwright, voice over artist and performance skills coach. Prior to writing she was a professional actor, dancer and theatre practitioner. She trained in dance, theatre and drama therapy. She founded Earthworks, a Women’s Theatre Collective in 1993. Illness and disability brought her to writing. Her poems and prose have appeared in journals, magazines and online. Raine’s work can also be found on YouTube and Sound Cloud. Her work has also been widely anthologised. Nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize; Forward Prize and Best of the Net, she won the Moon Prize for Writing in a Woman’s Voice and her poem “The Birth of Rage” was Highly Commended in the Winchester Poetry Competition for the ‘Reaching Out’ category. Her three pamphlets, Apple Water: Povel Panni, they lit fires: lenti hatch o yog and The Stone Sleep are published with Hedgehog Poetry Press. Apple Water: Povel Panni was chosen as a Poetry Book Society 2019 Selected Pamphlet. She is the Romani Script Consultant for the musical For Tonight which will be performed in the UK and the USA in the near future. She is featured as the 12th Profile for the Romani Cultural and Arts Company and was Headline Poet for the World Storytelling Café in 2021. Her video was viewed over 2500 times. Her play The Tree Woman was performed online for the worldwide Earthquake Festival in October 2020 with the San Francisco Theatre Collective. She was a Guest Poet at Over the Edge Poetry event in Galway in 2020 and has performed at many other poetry events in Ireland and the UK. In February 2022 she participated in A Suitcase of Poetry, an Irish project founded by Fiona Bolger and Viviana Florentino and culminating in a video on YouTube. In 2024, Raine will edit an anthology of Romany women writers and artists, to be published by Salmon Poetry. 

A Memory of the Hop Fields

She is in the front garden
bending low, picking bluebells,
wearing her old red apron,
with the Spanish dancer on the front.

She stands up, rubbing her lower back,
her mind shaping a memory.
The hop fields,
her mother lean, strong,

picking the hops as quick as a squirrel.
Her bal in plaits, tied on top of her head.
Her gold hoops pulling her ears down.
Ruddy cheeks, dry cracked lips.

Her father pulling poles,
sweating, smiling,
his gold tooth for all to see. 

At the end of a long day
she would stand on top of an apple crate,
comb his hair, kiss his neck tasting of salt.
He would pick her up,
Swing her high, low and say,

‘You’re the prettiest little chi there ever was.’

Bal – hair; Chi - daughter/child.

The Greenhouse 

Mourners spill out into the alleyway. Amidst the black are flashes of purple and red of women’s scarves and men’s ties.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

My uncle, a staff sergeant in the army and just back from Germany, is dressed in his uniform. He leans against the kitchen wall, having a smoke. We drink tea laced with whiskey.                                                        My aunts dry their tears on freshly pressed white handkerchiefs.  

I go into the sitting room and see my sister sitting on a stool, her hands clasped tightly on her lap. The coffin is open. Grandfather is in his best suit. His pocket watch hangs from his top pocket. A family photograph is tucked into his waistcoat close to his heart. His old hip flask lies at his side, no doubt there will be a little whiskey in there. He still wears his gold ring. He looks as if he’s resting, as if he’ll sit up at any moment. I place my hand gently on his …

Grandfather and I are walking down the path to the greenhouse. I am six years old. It’s a hot day, I’m wearing my shorts.  Weeds and wildflowers tickle my ankles. He pushes the door open, ushers me in, points upwards. 

‘What d’ya think of the grapes my gal?’ Tilting my head back I see huge bunches, deep red, ready to be plucked.  He reaches up, pulls a few down, rinses them in a bowl of water then places them in my hand. I bite one and the juice runs down my chin. I eat two more. ‘They’re lovely Grandfather.’ He smiles,  opens a can of beer, takes a mouthful and says, ‘Do ya see these grapes? Do ya know why they’re so tasty?’ I shake  my head. ‘Well it’s because the Mulo watches over ’em.’ He laughs, I laugh but I’m not sure who the Mulo is.

I finish my cup of tea and tell granny that I am going down to the greenhouse. The door is slightly ajar, the white paint faded, flaking. I push the door hard, go in and smell sawdust, stale beer and decay.

Aunt Ria’s Gypsy Gold

sovereigns and gold chains 
hanging from her neck and wrists
rings through ears on fingers

at night
she places them in an embroidered bag
slips it under the mattress

she sleeps soundly
as the gold warms itself
longing for her soft skin 
and light

Poems Copyright © Raine Geoghegan, 2022

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