I ... entered the poem of life, whose purpose is ... simply to witness the beauties of the world, to discover the many forms that love can take. (Barabara Blackman in 'Glass After Glass')

These poems are works in progress and may be updated without notice. Nevertheless copyright applies to all writings here and all photos (which are either my own or used with permission). Thank you for your comments. I read and appreciate them all, and reply here to specific points that seem to need it — or as I have the leisure. Otherwise I reciprocate by reading and commenting on your blog posts as much as possible.

5 August 2015

Saying the Names

(with apologies to Al Purdy)

Launceston, Tasmania –
they always get it wrong.
Lawn-CESS-ton, strangers will pronounce
instead of LON-suh-ston.

Tasmania's harder to mis-speak,
but those who grew up there
mis-speak it fondly, purposely.
We say Taswegia.

And Launceston we say as Lonnie.
It's meant affectionate.
But visitors should not presume –
that's much too intimate.

I grew up there but now I'm here,
and sure I'm here to stay
in Northern Rivers, New South Wales,
with other names to say.

You must not call it Ty-al-gum
although it's spelt like that.
It's TAL-gum to the locals,
if you want to know what's what.

And when you see the word Mooball
you say the moo like moe –
and not moe-BALL but MOE-b'l, see –
despite the cows on show.

Tum-BUL-gum isn’t TUMble-gum,
although that makes you smile.
To speak of Pottsville Beach as Pottie
borders on the vile.

Yes, Limpinwood you say like that,
but don't know what you speak.
It's named for the exact same man
as Hopping Dick's Creek.

His name was Richard Wood, who had
a gammy leg, I'm told.
But that was long before my time;
the story has grown old.

I've grown a little old myself;
the hour is getting late.
The names of places lived and loved
are sweet to contemplate.

Murwillumbah, Wollumbin, Tweed.
Tamar, Roland, the Bluff.
To live with oceans, mountains, streams 
has always been enough.

To know the way to say the names
and never get them wrong
is how you tell yourself you're home:
the place where you belong.

For Midweek Motif at Poets United, where we are invited to be inspired by Al Purdy's 'Say the Names'.


  1. I enjoyed this poem, Rosemary. I have been to Launceston, and I am sure I have been guilty of mispronouncing its name. I love Tasmania (and ha) I can pronounce it well; but I never knew that the natives had another way of saying it. So true that the places one has lived and loved are fun to contemplate. And each name has its history -- as do we! Smiles.

  2. haha...i pronounced it wrongly...lawn-cess in stead of lon-suh......"The names of places lived and loved / are sweet to contemplate."...very true and I totally agree with the last stanza......this is such a delightful read....

  3. Oh I loving the closing stanza.. one should definitely know how to pronounce the names of places properly.. it gives a sense of belonging.. feeling like one is just where one should be - home.
    Beautifully penned :D

    Lots of love,

  4. Australians certainly have a way with names and words and that relaxed attitude is very endearing. Having been here almost 50 years I am just about integrated I wouldn't be without that larrikin attitude one bit.

  5. Long may you contemplate those names and memories they evoke - there is a Launceston in Cornwall - near to here - a Cornish accent is lo-onng - more laaaawnston!

    1. I believe ours is named after yours. But we sure changed the way it's said.

  6. Oh Rosemary, I so hoped you would write about Tasmania and you did, among the other beloved names. Thank you for writing to the prompt. This was a delight to read from first word to last, and I adore the closing lines. It is wonderful when one knows one is home.

  7. A really delightful read indeed. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Such a lovely poem. It is really sweet to contemplate about the places that leave a mark on our hearts. And the last paragraph is so beautiful.

  9. What a precious poem and so much fun to read. I'll be very quiet if i ever visit Australia, my tongue will be tied as I mispronounce those wonderful names. I enjoyed this so much!

  10. Straight to my heart. Well done.

  11. This was interesting to learn how the words are said. I am sure I would say them incorrectly and others would get a good laugh..smiling..the ending was wonderful..there is no place like home.

  12. Exploring pronunciation, you've found a lovely device here to express intimacy with the places you love. Great stuff!

  13. Oh a great poem. I was corrected once by a person who didn't grow up where I did. They seemed to think I was mispronouncing the city name. They did it more than once.

  14. Scholastic!!! The idea of using poetry to help with pronunciation is phenomenal....!! Learned the names of few Welsh places....thank you, Rosemary. Enjoyed reading very much!

  15. A fun take on this and so many interesting names!!

  16. Ah, you can tell a true local by how they pronounce all the contentious place names ;-) Good one, Rosemary.