Monday, August 5, 2013

Tuesday Poem - Polemic by Emma Neale


This poem knows a couple of kids.
It wants to go into their homes
and put in insulation, double-glazed windows,
leave a week’s worth of groceries, exterminate the rats,
fix the dripping taps, make the adults come clean, off the drugs,
give them someone who can be stuffed to listen,
pull up all the old neural pathways, lay down fresh trails
so the ancient pain that flares and drives the hand to lash
is stayed, and so their hands are stayed,
and patience comes to them like visitations
of renovating (what-shall-we-call-it-if-we-won’t-call-it-holy?) light.

This poem wants to offer steady work, self-worth,
to sober up the violent drunks,
to unsuffer the little children to come unto misery.

This poem wants to dismantle the conditions
that gave a certain someone the nutrition, genetics, education,
marriage, employment, control over their own fertility and childcare
that empowered them to be a certain someone who mucks around with poems.

This poem wants to radicalise itself
rip itself up and start again.

This poem wants to be an historic poem
that needs footnotes and extensive scholarly apparatus
because very soon after its final draft
the concepts of inequality, domestic violence, child abuse and global recession
meet their gorgeous obsolescence.

But, ah, this poem also wants to be Rilke’s archaic torso of Apollo;
ache, deeply unfashionable ache,
what of the urge to forge something beautiful?

Pause here to lift your eyes
to a magnolia
outside an office block
that extends its broad green leaves
to a sudden winter squall of light
as if with mouth and palms held open
to taste the drought split its own dry peel
in a sweet wash of rain…

But of course this poem can only see that
on a full stomach and a history of love.

This poem wants to regenerate fragmented communities.
This poem wants to make the streets safe for a woman to walk
with her eyes on her feet and her head full of inchoate song after dark.

This poem has put the children first:
they’re bathed and fed and now in bed, and that’s political.

This poem has gone for a walk to clear its head
and that’s political.

This poem has agreed to sex with someone it loves
even though it’s tired and anxious and frankly not that interested
and that’s political.

This poem was nearly beaten up when it stopped to write a line of itself
in the light of a street lamp and some crazy, wired, disenfranchised, drop-out driver
thought it was to take down its license plate number
and that’s political.

This poem tells lies now and then for effect
which might be aesthetic but it’s also political.

This poem had some of its lines revised
while its husband cooked dinner and its mother-in-law watched the kids
and that’s political.

This poem would achieve wider circulation
if published in a North American literary journal
than if published in its country of origin
and that’s political.

This poem hasn’t had the time, the training, nor does it have the ability
to learn the latest neuroscience or subatomic physics
and that’s political.

This poem wants to talk higher taxes even if it’s an election year
and whaddaya know, that’s political.

This poem is a poem; it comes from an era
when people still hold out hope for the poem
and that’s political.

This poem agitates.

This poem wants to be all things to all people.
This poem is inherently impossible.

What does this poem want?
When does it want it?
What does this poem want?
When does it want it?

 This redoubtable poem was the star of the latest issue of Landfall IMHO. I love a bit of well-crafted polemic LOL. No, seriously, but – I was very taken with it indeed and I am delighted Emma gave me permission to share it with you. In case you don’t invest in Landfall, which is worth investing in. It seems to be getting better and better. I haven't met Emma yet, although we are Facebook friends, but we have a link. Her book The Truth Garden won the Kathleen Grattan Award and was published by Otago University Press the year after my book This City got the nod. 

Emma Neale has published five novels and three collections of poetry. She has also edited three anthologies: Creative Juices (HarperCollins, 2001), Best New Zealand Poems 2004 and Swings and Roundabouts: Poems on Parenthood (Godwit, 2007). Her poetry has appeared in UK, Australian and New Zealand periodicals, and extracts of her work have appeared in North American literary publications such as Bat City Review, the Harvard Review, and the website Poetry Daily. A past recipient of the Creative New Zealand/Todd New Writers' Bursary, she was awarded the inaugural NZSA/Janet Frame Memorial Award for Literature, and is the 2012 Robert Burns Fellow at the University of Otago. Her most recent novel, Fosterling, is shortlisted for the Sir Julius Vogel Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Emma Neale’s blog.

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  1. It's a stellar poem. Thanks for posting it!

  2. Hits right in the depths of the heartstrings, and back. Wrenching, yet tender.
    More people need to read it...

  3. good posting of Latest love poetry her