Tuesday, August 3, 2010

'I am Christina Rossetti.'

I am back from vacation! I had a lovely time, reading, writing, canoeing, wading, walking, admiring nature, and braving no air-conditioning. ;)

Anyhow, as you should know from my last post, I brought some books of poetry along with me. One of these was The Complete Poems of Christina Rossetti {Only Volume I, as I found out later!} I had never read much, if any, Christina Rossetti but now I would consider her as being one of my favourite poets.
My interest in Christina Rossetti was aroused after a recent re-reading of one of my favourite books: The Tattooed Potato and other clues by Ellen Raskin. This humorous book is about a girl named Dickory Dock who becomes the apprentice to a mysterious, eccentric painter named Garson.
In this excerpt, Dickory is upset because of her ridiculous name and Garson tells her an interesting story about Christina Rossetti.

"You know, Chief Quinn was right about {your name} being a happy name. Besides, a name is just a label; it can stand for whatever a person makes of it." He left off painting to look at his sulking apprentice. "Have you ever heard of Christina Rossetti?"
"No, and that's not a funny name or a happy name." Dickory was screwing and unscrewing the same cap on the same tube of paint.
"I'm talking about names being symbols for who and what you are," Garson said, returning to his canvas. "Christina Rossetti was a poet, a wonderful poet. She was also a bit loony, but that's not the point."
Dickory set down the paint tube and listened.
"Christina Rossetti was a shy, very shy creature, who had difficulty speaking to anyone but her family and a few intimate friends. Well, one evening, somehow or other, she found herself at a party. No one noticed her: small, retiring, dressed in black, she sat like a shadow against the wall while the fashionable people flirted, and flaunted their ignorance, and chattered their silly chatter. Then the subject turned to poetry. You can imagine what was said: 'No one had time to read poetry anymore,' or 'All the good poets are dead,' or 'I don't know much about poetry, but I know what I like." Whatever was said was shallow and stupid, so shallow and stupid that our timid poet stood up and walked to the center of the room. Suddenly all was quiet. All eyes were on this small nervous woman in dull black. Can you guess what she said, Dickory?"
"Head held high, she stood tall as she could in the middle of those frightening people and said:
'I am Christina Rossetti.' Then she turned and sat down.
"That's all?"

"That's everything. 'I am Christina Rossetti,' she said, which meant: 'I am a poet, a very good poet.' Those in the room who recognized her name realized they had been speaking rubbish; and those who did not understand were silenced by their ignorance. 'I am Christina Rossetti' was all she need have said. Do you understand what I'm saying, Dickory Dock? Worry less about your name, and more about who you are and who you want to be, and what Dickory Dock will stand for."

And that is what got me interested in Christina Rossetti. For some reason, I love that story. {Also Garson gave an excellent piece of advice, I think.}

{Christina Rossetti as painted by her brother, Dante Gabriel Rossetti.}

Do you have any favourite poets?


  1. Hm, I'd never heard of her before, but now I'm going to find her article on Wikipedia.... :) My favourite poet, so far, is Tolkien--I never much liked poetry until I read LOTR. Now I love poetry. One of my favourite poems by him is "The Sea-Bell". I also like Wordsworth, though I haven't read a whole lot of his poems. Not a big fan of Poe, except for "The Raven".

  2. Ah, I have loved Christina ever since I was very, very young indeed, and read 'Cats sit everywhere,' which I think I can still recite off by heart. And her name is terribly beautiful; and what a gorgeous excerpt. xx


Silhouettes of a secret. A story told over a cuppa. Or perhaps just sitting on that stone bench, basking in the moonlight... and not saying anything at all.

("I can no other answer make but thanks, and thanks, and ever thanks." -Shakespeare, Twelfth Night)