Origins of The Poesy Ring by Bob Graham
As much as is possible I write my stories intuitively. I am now trusting myself to do this, and at the end of the process if more is needed I have helpful back up from my editor Lizzie and designer Deirdre at Walker Books.
I don’t go looking for stories. More, I like to sit at my desk and find a few chords, a key to play in, a few notes that might go together. I’m not a musician, but a few pictures that might fit with a few words is my equivalent- something in which I can gently push outwards and see what might happen as a result
In fact, uncovering stories that might happen over time seemed far too difficult for me. Recently it has been enough to try to describe even a moment in time. So my recent books, (Silver Buttons, Coco’s House, Vanilla Ice Cream, Home in the Rain) have been somewhat preoccupied with just that. And how a 75 year old man sees Time and how a 5 year old child reader also sees it, well I have no idea how those two come together. Perhaps that children have such an ability to live in the moment, maybe that has some connection with the subject matter of my recent books? I can only hope so. I do no research and to be 5? Well it was all a long time ago.
So now in The Poesy Ring I have a book full of moments in time but also spanning 137 years. And given the way I work, only after it’s finished can I go back and pull out a couple of threads and think how it might have come about. And I am wary of analysing things too much, digging in there and pulling it all apart again.
Given the dedication For Carolyn. Us. 50 years I am asked if this is our story, are Sonny and Jules us? Well, it’s true we were married back in 1967, Carolyn being a model at the Julian Ashton Art school in Sydney and me being a penniless art student. The Summer of Love must have been somewhere in the air, even so far away as we were from San Francisco or the streets of New York. Or the Chelsea hotel where I like to think Sonny and Jules were returning to, passing Patti Smith and Bob Dylan in the hallway.
And no we never owned such a ring. We bought one for Carol, (not for me for some reason) and she wore it briefly before it was lost down the kitchen sink and has never been replaced. It never seems to have been a priority; although now I look back had I been to plumbing school rather than art school I might have known to look no further than the S bend under the sink. Perhaps it’s still there in some run down flat in Mosman, Sydney if such a thing still exists.
Carolyn and I lived in Somerset UK for 6 years or so, and a stone’s throw from a Roman road and I loved to think that while digging in our vegetable garden that there was always a slight possibility of some archaeological find, (all that ever turned up were 2 old handmade nails, tiny chips of pottery, and two Victorian pennies 1882.) But I had subsequently read that such a Poesy ring as in my story was unearthed not so long ago in a field in Country Antrim, Northern Ireland. Dating back to 1680, inscribed inside was “Look on the Giver. Not the gift.”
One other thing, when our daughter in law Caitlin saw the proofs she misted over. She told me that she and our son Pete did just that i.e. bought a ring from a pawn shop in Smith St Fitzroy. They walked back across the street and Pete proposed high up in the outdoor carpark of Safeways supermarket. I didn’t know that.
You have to take romance wherever you can find it.
ps. Oh! one other thing. My memory will take me back as far as Beverly Hills Primary school, Sydney, early 1950’s. Whenever we returned from holidays we were offered subjects for a composition.” Invariably it was “What I did on my holidays.” I remember that this subject, this topic, was always finished by me with…..” and HOME we returned. Tired but happy!” Far more creative was, “The Adventures of a Penny.” Penny drops from pocket or purse. Rolls into gutter. Rolls down drain. Washes through the sewers. And on and on. Just a little while back I realised that at last I had got to write my “composition.”
Some things take time is all.
Bob Graham is the author of many extraordinary and critically acclaimed books for children, including How to Heal a Broken Wing, The Silver Button, How the Sun Got to Coco’s House,and Home in the Rain. He lives in Australia.