Grandma poems are one of a number of subsets of family poems relating to different members of the family. Many Australian poets have written memorial poems about their grandmothers, as with Vivian Smith’s ‘In Memory of My Grandmothers’ and Craig Powell’s ‘for My Grandmother’. In ‘Hands’, Gary Catalano looks back over his grandma’s life of making and doing things until her hands were worn out.
Many grandma poems are about grandmothers in extreme old age, when they are ninety or more. Rosemary Dobson, in ‘Amy Caroline’ looks back over her grandmother’s eventful long life, as does Paul Hetherington in ‘Grandmother’, written again when she is ninety. Although age is not specifically mentioned in Marie Pitt’s ‘Evensong’, the association of evening with old age as well as with death has similar resonances. Old age can also bring senility, as recorded in Jamie Grant’s ‘The Parapet’, which records what is happening to two grandmothers, both in their late nineties. At 103, the grandma in Philip Salom’s ‘Poem for My Grandmother’ is now confined to hospital as she approaches death.
In contrast, younger grandmas are presented from the perspective of the grandchild, as with Rhyll McMasters’ ‘Homeleigh’ which includes reminiscences of her grandmother’s Brisbane house of that name. In ‘Pinecones and My Grandmother’, Jennifer Strauss also recalls her childhood experiences, as does Bruce Beaver in ‘The First Paradoxical Memory’. The memory is of a visit to his grandmother’s house, where he is stung by a bee. In David Malouf’s ‘At My Grandmother’s’ it is the grandma herself who is scary as the young boy is forced to sit with her and hold skeins of wool.
Some grandma poems deal with grandmothers who were born overseas, as in Judith Rodriguez’s ‘my grandmother’, a sequence of poems about her English grandmother. And in ‘Looking for Ancestors in Limerick’ Tom Shapcott looks back over the life of his grandmother who was born in Ireland.