A tribute by Mandy Pannett
Many tributes are being paid to Caron Freeborn. She was a unique person and a gifted writer and teacher. It will be hard to come to terms with the loss of her. For this tribute it seems appropriate to narrow the focus a bit and think about Caron as poet, Caron as author of ‘Georges Perec is my hero’.
I first got to know Caron and her work when she entered an Earlyworks Press poetry collection competition in 2014. A hard task for me and I well remember sleepless nights when I had to make the final selection out of several excellent contenders.
But Caron’s poetry haunted me and I chose hers for the energy of the writing, its originality and variety, because it was both lively and compassionate, pertinent and humorous, beautifully crafted with an emphasis on pattern and form. There was a strength and urgency to her poet’s voice. It demanded a reader, a listener. It was insistent that there was something important to say.
Caron had chosen the title ‘Georges Perec is my hero’ from the start. I was intrigued by it and asked her to elaborate. This is what she said: ‘I’m captivated by Perec’s questions about how we give common things a meaning, how we rescue the details from the assault of Big Stuff. That’s what I want to do: rescue the details in which we live. The cigarette butts. The smudged lipstick. The ordinary that is so bloody odd.’
Caron’s collection is wonderful and deserves a full reading. For now I shall include the first and last poems in the book. Caron and I chose them together and she felt they epitomised some of the things she needed, as a poet, to say.
This poem opens the collection. It was always my own personal favourite:
She gave me a dead butterfly.
Look, she said, how beautiful.
But it’s dead, I said.
Well, technically, she said.
Not just technically, I said.
It’s beautiful, she said.
And put it on the coffee jar.
I’m not sure if the butterfly was
meant to be ground and drunk,
a papery blue poison to force
me light and high and breath-
less, or if we were supposed to keep
it in reverent admiration until death
crumbled into Spanish lace.
But later, when I went to the jar, it had flown.
And this poem is the one Caron chose for the ending:
Sometimes I get an idea, a thought: if
I took a needle to my heart, and sewed
up the ragged holes, it might be small, skewed,
hard but it would be whole. Stiff with beaten
metal twine, it would creak out nifty tunes,
accordion rhymes, crude approximations
of the lover’s art. Let’s face it, I’m screwed
up high among the heartless, sifting lines.
The last book I loved was before I gave
birth. Tripartite Structure, transmogrified
to Triad of Impairment. Drinking slime
I turned the corner down. Oh brave new world
that had such creatures in it. All words died –
slid out through the heart-holes. I read. Sometimes.
Note added 2021. Caron’s poetry collection ‘Georges Perec is my hero’ is still available – you can order it from any decent bookshop, or contact me to buy direct.