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Books & Poetry

Poem: Maldon, Old Mining Town

Books & Poetry

In this week’s Poet’s Corner, Katherine Gallagher writes of her birthplace, the historic Victorian goldmining town of Maldon.

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Maldon, Old Mining Town

A breakdown at six a.m.
and no garage till seven; reminisce
pick at stillness, among the ranks
of bullock-drays and the old diggers
pegged to their shadows –
my great-grandfather who
just missed a mine here,
couldn’t go deep enough
to crack the golden rib,
and the others like him
who started and stopped
in the overnight of a few years
until the reef went quiet.

Everything’s stage-set for history
and tourists
as the miners pass again
in the early morning chill,
spendthrift with ragged success
and celebrated: the town clinging to a oneness
that was theirs – hood-nosed verandahs
over stone-slab footpaths
with relics of the Then
when six million stirred the Banks.

And you listen, touch their golden-
wheel: it spins in your dream as they
come driving up the street
from an age when they chipped the year
on everything – the ‘54 Bakery, Dabb’s Store,
the Hospital and a line of churches...
Then their voices trail off –
gone like the gold they chased.
And you wait, hold your breath...
Carry their clip-clops
under glass.

Katherine Gallagher is a leading Australian poet living in London. She was born in the Victorian Goldfields town of Maldon and grew up on a farm in the nearby Eastville district, where she attended a one-teacher school. She gained her BA and Diploma of Education from Melbourne University, and left Australia in 1969, moving first to London, then to Paris, where she taught English. She returned to London in 1979, where she has lived since.

Gallagher retains strong connections to Australia, as “an Australian poet resident in the UK”. Among her many publications have been eight collections of poetry, published in both the UK and Australia, and her translations of French poet Jean-Jacques Celly. Among her awards have been an Australian Literature Board Fellowship in 1978, a Royal Literary Fund Award in 2000, and a London Society of Authors’ Foundation Award in 2008. Gallagher is active in poetry mentoring in London, and more of her work can be found at her website www.katherine-gallagher.com.

Readers’ original and unpublished poems of up to 40 lines can be emailed, with postal address, to poetscorner@solsticemedia.com.au. A poetry book will be awarded to each contributor.
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