Jane Baker: People

Australian poet, Jane Baker, has released a collection of poems which depict the everyday joys and struggles of men, women and children from around the world. Her book is titled, ‘People’.

Jane is widely travelled, having been to a host of countries including Israel, Turkey, Iran, Uzbekistan, India and China. She draws on these experiences for many of the poems in this collection.

When visiting these countries, it’s clear Jane does more than marvel at the grandeur of the scenery or the stunning buildings. Jane sees the people. Those who have lived in these places in the past, and those who live there today.

For example, these lines are from Jane’s poem about a cliff-side lift operator in Chongqing, China. The poem is titled A Desirable Position:

All day,
from misted dawn till dusk,
she sits in a grey steel cell
on a small metal stool
and stares at the wall.

Her ankles, like her knees,
lock primly together, her lace-up
shoes gleaming in the light of
the weak bulb caged overhead.
Her neat black bun gleams too,
but if her eyes shine, no one knows.

Many of Jane’s poems describe people going about their everyday activities, though some poems refer to Jane’s interactions with the local people. Here are the opening two stanzas from Jane’s poem titled Street Sweepers of Tashkent, in which she goes on to describe her conversation with the street sweepers:

Like three little matruska dolls
they sat close on a bench above
the fast running snow-melt canal,
their birch brooms propped against
a stone wall below a green bank.

Even though their wrinkled
faces were ruddy with the cold
and their wraps threadbare,
they laughed and swung
felt-booted feet like children.

Jane loves to meet people, and she cares about people. Many of Jane’s poems capture the delight and goodwill of those she meets along the way, while at times her poems also reflect on past horrors and present day traumas. I would like to conclude by reproducing in full the following heart-rending poem by Jane Baker:

In the Yamuna Margh

They always come at night,
these desperate women, with
tiny bundles of scrubbed clean rag
held close in too thin arms.

They slip down the unlit side
of the Yamuna Margh
to the little whitewashed house
with its blind front wall
inset with turntable and bell.

A final fingering of the rags,
a last long look to fix
an image for a lifetime
and another tiny girl child
is laid gently in the niche,
the frayed bell rope pulled.

They do not wait
as the disk rotates
their daughters into care,
but screen bent heads
with the end of a sari and
slip back into the darkness
of the Indian night.

If you are interested in obtaining a copy of People by Jane Baker, please drop me an email via the Contact page and I will put you in touch with Jane.