Harry Ricketts

Arty Bees: Quality Pre Loved Books, Bought, Sold and Exchanged

But did Mary Elliot pre love that copy
of The Princess and the Goblin
(silvery-blue hardback, Seagull Library

series) which I recently bought
for $8? The flowery bookplate
says: “3rd Prize Attendance, 1957”.

3rd prize for Attendance? How many
prizes for Attendance did they award?
And were they really that desperate

to give Mary a prize? Did someone
in the common room just happen
to say one day: “You know Mary

Elliot in 4b, with the bad skin
and the oily hair, she’s been looking
a bit peaky lately, down in the dumps.

Do you think a prize would cheer her up?
I know, what about ‘3rd Prize
for Attendance’?” And they all agreed.

Or was Mary 4b’s mascot, a sunbeam
of a girl, beloved by all; not exactly
the brightest crayon in the box,

but so friendly and helpful
that “Surely we can find some sort
of prize for Mary?” What, come to that,

were 1st and 2nd Prizes for Attendance?
Alice in Wonderland and The Water Babies?
Or something more uptodate like Antonia

Forest’s Autumn Term or C S Lewis’s
The Silver Chair? (No, too scary.)
And, Mary, did you love The Princess

and the Goblin? Did you, Mary?
If so, would you like to explain
why pages 19 and 20 are missing?

And what these red scrawls
and scribbles across the illustrations
on pages 105 and 118 portend?

And the pink, sugary deposits
on pages 126 and 127? Or were they the work
of your younger brother Richie

(the one later expelled from Nelson College)?
And, Mary, I’d like to know what you thought
of the rum story I’ve just reread

about grandmothers spinning in towers
whom only princesses can see
and how the best way to deal with goblins

is to make up rhymes and stamp
on their feet. I mean, you knew
that anyway. That’s obvious, right?

But now you’re clearing up the house
before the final move your children
have insisted on and have other

things on your mind than princesses
and goblins, and though you really
did love this silvery-blue book

with its funny bookplate (it was a joke
- everyone knew you wagged classes
at school), it too will have to go.



Harry Ricketts has published eight collections of poems, most recently Your Secret Life (HeadworX, 2005). He lives in Wellington, New Zealand where he teaches English literature and creative non-fiction at Victoria University.