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Books & Poetry

Poem: Getting the Electricity On

Books & Poetry

In this week’s Poet’s Corner, Katherine Gallagher recalls a childhood and adolescence spent against an Australian farming backdrop of the 1940s and ’50s.

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Getting the Electricity On

The farm has changed, face-lifted
since we put away the lamps
or hung them up with lanterns, as antiques.
The house is new-veined, lush.

Getting the current switched through –
such fever, a district-do to celebrate:
We’ll be like the townsfolk now, we sang.
My mother saw the world transformed
by a washing-machine and fridge.

My father, caught by progress in a skein
that swept about his ears,
tracked voyages round the farm
reassured by the sameness of the stars
and lanterns lighting his mind.


we watched seasons
seep into our skins

saw the seasons fail
fought them

now we find ourselves
packing once more

choosing a direction
the sky weightless

tracks ribboning
before our eyes

the cart piled ready
we scratch final messages

wedge ourselves on board
elbows jarring our sides

suddenly the driver
jerking the reins in

as the load tilts

and crockery
starts to break on itself

Katherine Gallagher is a leading Australian poet. 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 here.

Readers’ original and unpublished poems of up to 40 lines can be emailed, with postal address, to A poetry book will be awarded to each contributor.


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