As a fellow lover of rummaging in charity shops I really like this poem, The Madonna of Oxfam, by Judy Brown. Her description is so vivid I can see the dress and wish I had found it myself! – Ali
I have a big fascination with wandering round charity shops. There are some fantastic ones in Derbyshire. Because of the other lives in them, the clothes you get always feel more like dressing up than anything an ordinary shop could sell, as well as being considerably cheaper. I love old-fashioned summer dresses. This poem was inspired by a specific dress, although it doesn’t feel quite as potentially haunted as the poem suggests! Sometimes, after readings, people come up and tell me about good charity shops to go to. I’m always delighted with such recommendations. – Judy Brown
The Madonna of Oxfam
The tangerine dress comes with its own breasts –
higher and bigger and closer together than mine.
I’m not ungrateful: I’ll borrow their secondhand air
in stiffened cones let into the bodice lining. I like
the hand-embroidered label, the trouble she took,
the specialness cotton dresses once used to have.
Fifty years on the material still feels live, unpapery,
not just an exhibit of how she lived. For the rest,
the Le Creuset-coloured frock fits like a dream –
not, as things do now, with Lycra’s eager adjustments.
It’s someone’s just-married summer again, as soon
as the splashy pattern lays itself out in pleasure
on my bones. It comes to mind how the English
took to imported cotton; people said silk underwear
never felt clean. You think you know what’s what
on days like these, then some other woman steps out
from behind the curtain for trying-things-on,
more than dressed-up, a great deal less than decent.
by Judy Brown
From Crowd Sensations published by Seren, 2016.
Judy Brown lives in Derbyshire and has worked as Writer in Residence at Gladstone’s Library and Poet in Residence at the Wordsworth Trust. Judy has written two collections of poetry, Loudness, (published by Seren Books, 2011) – shortlisted for the Forward Felix Dennis first collection prize 2011 and the Fenton Aldeburgh prize 2012. Her second book Crowd Sensations is a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. Judy works as a freelance tutor and mentor, gives Poetry Surgeries in Derby for the Poetry Society and is a Royal Literary Fund Associate Fellow.
Judy will be running a poetry writing workshop on Thursday 6th October 2016,
2-4 pm at Buxton Library inspired by the National Poetry Day theme Messages. You’ll have the opportunity to use images, postcards and messages from the Buxton Museum collection to inspire your own poems about local places and people.
Free but advance booking essential.