Apple Water : Povel Panni, Raine Geoghegan
The Hedgehog Poetry Press, 2018 £5.00
Cherish the Language
As a kid growing up in Portsmouth, ‘Dinlo’, ‘mooey’ and ‘moosh’ were words I had heard and frequently used. But it wasn’t until I came across Raine Geoghegan’s Apple Water : Povel Panni that I realised they were part of the Romani language.
This unusual debut pays homage to the poet’s Romany past. Poems, prose poems and haibun are constructed from stories gleamed from relatives — travelling people who made a living by, amongst other things, picking fruit, vegetables and hops in Herefordshire and Kent.
The inclusion of found words in phrases like ‘Chavies brought up to rokker the Romani’ adds to the collection’s authenticity. Woven between poems are family photographs and a glossary of Romani language (Jib).
‘To be a Romany’ is a distillation of conversations about ‘the old days’, before increasing legislation made stopping places, or ‘aitchin tan’, harder to find:
We worshipped the ground we walked on,
the fresh air, green spaces, the lungo drom,
meetin’ up with friends, getting the grai ready for travelling
References and rhymes dedicated to food, cooking and communal eating abound — a lovely example is ‘The Plum Pudding Girl — A Little Gypsy Song’:
cooked in a cloth, tied with a string.
In ‘Hotchiwitch/Hedgehog’, the use of vernacular language transforms the ritual roasting of a hedgehog into something surprisingly delightful:
to bake an ’otchiwitch;
roll it in the clay,
drop it in the embers of yer yog.
Harassment, however, is never far away. ‘Dick-eye the gavvers are comin!’ exclaims ‘our Sammy’ in ‘Keep Movin’. Before long the police have arrived to dismantle the site: ‘One of ’em kicked the kittle off the yog’.
In the years after the Second World War most Gypsies had to give up the travelling life and settle down. A prose poem, ‘In the Back Yard at Winslow Way’, places Raine’s grandmother ‘fanning herself with an old Spanish fan’ and drinking tea as children play: ‘Ooh, that’s a kushti cup of mesci, nice and strong.’
This collection of poems is indeed wholeheartedly kushti.