Tuesday Poem: In Memory of Sarah Broom, 1972-2013
It is with great sadness that I record the death of New Zealand poet, Sarah Broom, who died last Thursday, 18 April, after a prelonged illness with lung cancer.
My first encounter with Sarah was through her poetry, when I read and loved her first collection, Tigers at Awhitu (Auckland Universty Press, NZ; Carcanet, UK) in 2010. We never met in person, but did correspond via email when her health allowed—and of course, there was always the poetry.
For me, Tigers at Awhitu was the outstanding poetry collection of 2010 and I believe her death leaves a considerable gap in the New Zealand poetry community.
In terms of her work, I featured Sarah’s poem “All my life” on December 18 last year, when I was guest editor on the Tuesday Poem Hub:
“So we sat, and the waves
crashed in like gifts, or insults,
and the children played,
digging trenches to defend
against the sea, and then a head
bobbed up and down
in the waves, a bit too far out,
and an arm waved, and again…”
To read the poem and my commentary in full, please click here, on All My Life.
In 2009-2010, I also organised an e-feature called “Poet’s Corner.” The poem Sarah chose to feature was also from Tigers at Awhitu, titled “Keep moving.” In her poet’s note, Sarah wrote:
“Keep Moving was written when I was heavily pregnant and also already ill with lung cancer, though I didn’t know the latter at the time. I did know that it was inordinately difficult to move! Looking back at it, the poem has gathered more and more weight for me, and in my book it is placed as the final poem in the first section of the book; the poems in the second section were all written after my diagnosis. The ‘razor pass through the mountains’ has something to do with the path I have had to traverse since then.
At the time, though, the poem was quite mysterious to me. I hope that readers might find that it speaks to their own experience of having to turn away from familial and social demands, from loved ones even, to do those things one needs to do. Is it ok to be so outrageously large?!”
I lumber over the land, knees swollen
and knotted like kumara roots.
Who is that child so far down below
who reaches out to me? I can barely hear
his cry, he is simply too far away. I trudge
through drying braided rivers, I step
over tussocky brown hills. What do you say,
you small people waving your hands at me
from beside the lake? You think I should stop,
you want to help, the child needs me? …
… meanwhile, I have my eye
on that razor pass through the mountains.
I think I may have been there before.”
To discover Sarah’s work for yourself, please seek out a copy of Tigers at Awhitu. Her second collection, Gleam, will also be published by AUP in July this year.
To hear Sarah read from and discuss Tigers at Awhitu, click on the following Scottish Poetry Library podcast interview: Sarah Broom
My deeply felt condolences to Sarah’s husband, Michael, and her three children—no matter the gap left in New Zelanad poetry, theirs is the greater loss.
Haere ra, Sarah: haere ra, haere ra, haere ra.
To read further tributes to Sarah, please see the following: