Her Names are Many
Look, there she goes. Dressed in her finery for a Gypsy Rommer.
Black leather boots, long purple dress gold around her neck and a feather in her hat,
She’ll mingle with the guests, drink wine until she’s skimmished.
She’ll hitch her skirts up. Dance like the young ones.
Just before she leaves she’ll give order and sing a song
that nobody knows but everyone loves and then she’ll disappear into the shadows
into the dust that rolls along the empty streets and never settles.
Rommer – wedding; Skimmished – drunk.
Dark is the Forest
Dark is the forest and deep, In times gone past it’s where we’d sleep. Under the oaks or the Hawthorn tree, drop our covels, our minds roam free.
Dark is the forest and deep, for dukkering, our malts will keep, a small gold ring tied with string, around their wrist or in their fist.
Dark is the forest and deep, where foxgloves grow and deer do leap, our plans are spun and boar will run. We take our time, we ‘ave some fun.
Dark is the forest and deep, we pass by patrins for those who seek, to keep in touch with folk that are dear and pass on news of birth and fear
.Dark is the forest and deep.
The title is taken from a poem No 131 – Poems 1916 by Edward Thomas.
Romani words (jib) Covels – belongings; Dukkering – fortune telling; Patrins – signs left along the way, can be leaves or string.
Then the Day Came…
I remember your body lying in the darkened room,
the smell of stale air and socks.
How you had become ghostlike,
silent, creeping about the house.
I missed the boy in you, the joy in you.
In the afternoon you’d come downstairs,
go into the office where the computer sat.
You moved your fingers on the keyboard
at the speed of light as you played game after game,
not stopping to eat or drink.
There were two sides of you.
The quiet one, soft voice, sad face,
eyes filled with longing.
The other, set like stone, words forming sharp arrows,
wounding me, wounding you.
Then the day came,
when I felt the weight of all that you were holding onto,
and I wondered if you could hold on any longer.
On that day I kissed your forehead
as you lay in bed, the voice of Michael Jackson
on the radio singing Billie Jean.
A sharp memory of you aged five dancing,
When I returned home late that night
and saw you in the kitchen, you were making scrambled eggs.
You were dressed, you were calm,
your eyes looking straight at me
and you said. ‘Hi Mum, how did the workshop go?’
Raine Geoghegan is a poet, prose writer, playwright and storyteller living in the Malvern Hills. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Forward Prize for Best Single Poem and Best of the Net. Her work has been published in print and online in many countries and some of her work appears in a documentary film, ‘Stories of the Hop Yards. Her two pamphlets are published by Hedgehog Poetry Press. She is of Romani, Irish and Welsh ancestry. Her first full collection will be published in Marsh 2022 with Salmon Poetry Press.
About Raine Geoghegan & her writing process, influences, and where to find her work
My latest book, ‘they lit fires: lenti hatch o yog’ is a collection of monologues, haibuns, prose
poems and songs. Debjani Chatterjee writes: ‘Each piece is a vignette that tells a story of a
disappearing Romany way of life. Raine Geoghegan has captured fleeting moments and
expressed them in a language that rings sharp and true.’ This endorsement stresses the fact
that we Romany people are fiercely holding onto to our culture, our traditions and history. I
bring members of my family to life by giving them a voice in the form of monologues or
songs. I like to think that the reader will be transported into the world of the Romany and that
they learn something in the process. I hope the reader is informed and discovers aspects of
the Romany culture when reading this book.
After having my first book published, ‘Apple Water: Povel Panni’ and being humbled by its
success and popularity, it sold like hot cakes, I was keen to write something a little different
although still keeping close to the Romany theme. Mark Davidson, my publisher at
Hedgehog Poetry Press liked the idea that I presented so I began bringing together work I had
already finished as well as writing new pieces. My ancestors are larger than life and I was
inspired by their strengths. I knew that I wanted to continue writing about them. A few things
happened while I was drawing on certain characters in my family. I would read the
monologues aloud as I wrote them. Once a bell rang when I was reading a monologue based
on my granny. There was only my husband and I sitting in the kitchen, the bell was on a table
in the hallway. It rang loud and clear and I had a shiver down my spine. I like to think it was
my granny letting me know that she liked what I was doing.
I wrote on and off as a child and as an adult but I never became serious about it until I started
my Masters degree in Creative Writing at the University of Chichester. Since I graduated I
have not stopped writing and my work is constantly embracing new ideas and forms. I like
the monologue as a form, it resonates with the part of me that loves to perform. Having
worked as an actor for many years it comes as no surprise. I also write plays and am working
on new material which has a certain theatrical element to it.
There are a number of writers and poets that I am drawn to. I’ll start with Vasko Popa who
for me is one of the finest poets ever. His work is mainly imagistic and it literally comes alive
on the page. I am inspired by his depth of imagination as was Ted Hughes who wrote the
forward for Popa’s Collected Poems, Hughes is another poet that I love. Dylan Thomas is a
poet that I return to time and time again mainly for his musicality and the use of language and
story. I am from the Welsh valleys so feel akin to his sentiments. I adore Seamus Heaney,
who doesn’t? I like to read his poetry when I am stuck. It helps me to re-focus. Now for the
women. W. S. Merwin must be mentioned. Sappho is a poet that never fails to enlighten me.
Her words hang in the air and I love reading them aloud. Ann Michaels writes so eloquently
and touches my soul. I heard her read at Ledbury Poetry Festival around five years ago and
loved listening to her as her Canadian accent seemed to enrich her poetry. Sujata Bhat was
also reading and I fell in love with her poetry too. She uses such vivid imagery and her work
is a mythology in itself. Louise Gluck is fantastic and I will never tire of her. Papusza, a
Romany poet walks with me but sadly there are only a small amount of poems that have been
translated into English. Songs of the Roma is electrifying. Others are Ruth Padel, her book,
‘The Mara Crossing’ is brilliant, Chase Twichell, Mimi Khalvati and many more. I’d also
like to mention the publishers who are introducing us to some very fine poets these days such
as Nine Arches, Seren, Salmon Poetry Press, and of course Hedgehog Poetry Press.
I like to draw and paint a little. I love the freedom of sketching and there have been a number
of times when this has inspired a poem. I love Nature and am often inspired by big skies, the
Malvern Hills, the running water which is freely available from the wells. My acting
experience and my love of reading plays has inspired me in relation to writing monologues
and filmic poems.
My writing process is a mixture of things. I always have a notepad by my bed as I am often
inclined to get ideas late at night or early morning. I jot them down and then later in the
afternoon I work on them. I also hear voices, not in terms of me going mad but a gentle voice
encouraging me to write about a specific person. I love it when this happens as it takes me
right into the heart of a certain character. I write longhand first then I move onto the computer
and play around with the form. There are times when I decide to write about a certain event
or topic and I will go onto research it and just be with it for a while. I try not to force ideas. I
also try not to rush. I like to take my time and to also give events or happenings space. I’ve
not written about the Pandemic, I haven’t wanted to. Maybe in the future when it has settled I
might but in my mind it’s too raw, I can’t really process it yet.
I have to say that my Romany family have influenced my Romany poems, especially my
granny, mother, great grandparents, grandfather and also my Welsh family who are gadje
(non Romany). Other influences are the Welsh Valleys, the Malvern Hills and Herefordshire
where my family used to pick hops.
The most rewarding part of the writing process is reading it aloud once it’s all fallen into
place, that sense of completion and new life. The most frustrating part is when I just can’t
pull the words and images that I know are lying just inside my brain. I then leave it and let it
compost and usually when I return to it those words and images are there. I do still have a
few poems that have not been so fortunate. They still sit in a folder somewhere not seeing the
My creativity has not been adversely affected by the happenings of this year, instead I have
been busy writing, performing, teaching. It’s been a wild year. I’ve had offers of work and a
large number of my poems have been published. I worked with a New York Theatre Producer
on a script for a musical. My play was performed live on Zoom and was streamed all over the
world. However, I have had illness and my emotions have been all over the place. I feel that
my creative output has helped me to deal with these aspects. I have picked up on the
collective fear but I have tried my best to live each day in a mindful way and to give thanks
for all that I have.
Website – rainegeoghegan.co.uk
Twitter – RaineGeoghegan5
Apple Water: Povel Panni & they lit fires: lenti hatch o yog are both published by Hedgehog
Poetry Press and are available from my website. Many of my videos and readings are
available online, just google my name. Raine Geoghegan, BA Hons, MA, Dip RWTA – I am a member of The Society of Authors & Lapidus.