Sunday, 6 June 2010

Poetry to clean the house by

I have been reading on and off for the last couple of weeks Earth Shattering, Ecopoems edited by Neil Astley (Bloodaxe Books). I tend to like anthologies because you get such an interesting variety of writing styles. This is quite a poetry lover's book, lots of introductory information and then quite detailed biographical information about each poet. These are scattered through the book alongside one or other of their poems so you don't have to look them up in the back (which is where they are often relegated) and I was much more likely to read them than I might otherwise have been. So, as you might assume from the title, this is a collection of poems about ecology, in the broadest sense possible of the word. They vary from 'nature appreciation' type poems to political protest poems to those mourning the destruction of our planet.

It is quite impossible to give you any real idea of the scope of this book but I did manage to choose one that gave to me an overview of the situation. I was tempted by Gerard Manley Hopkins 'Binsey Poplars', which I am very fond of, unusually for me because I am not that keen on 'old' poetry but I think it has everything that a great poem should have, and you can really feel how much it mattered to him (it was written to commemorate when they were felled in 1879).

Instead I went for something much more modern, entitled 'Dinosauria, we' by Charles Bukowski. It pulls no punches. And I loved this description of him, it made me strangely sympathetic to him: "Foul-mouthed and potbellied, ravaged by self-neglect and alcohol, with a huge misshapen head, matted hair and lump, pitted, porridge-coloured skin, he looked in his prime like something risen from the dead."

Dinosauria, we

Born like this
Into this
As the chalk faces smile
As Mrs. Death laughs
As the elevators break
As political landscapes dissolve
As the supermarket bag boy holds a college degree
As the oily fish spit out their oily prey
As the sun is masked
We are
Born like this
Into this
Into these carefully mad wars
Into the sight of broken factory windows of emptiness
Into bars where people no longer speak to each other
Into fist fights that end as shootings and knifings
Born into this
Into hospitals which are so expensive that it’s cheaper to die
Into lawyers who charge so much it’s cheaper to plead guilty
Into a country where the jails are full and the madhouses closed
Into a place where the masses elevate fools into rich heroes
Born into this
Walking and living through this
Dying because of this
Muted because of this
Castrated
Debauched
Disinherited
Because of this
Fooled by this
Used by this
Pissed on by this
Made crazy and sick by this
Made violent
Made inhuman
By this
The heart is blackened
The fingers reach for the throat
The gun
The knife
The bomb
The fingers reach toward an unresponsive god
The fingers reach for the bottle
The pill
The powder
We are born into this sorrowful deadliness
We are born into a government 60 years in debt
That soon will be unable to even pay the interest on that debt
And the banks will burn
Money will be useless
There will be open and unpunished murder in the streets
It will be guns and roving mobs
Land will be useless
Food will become a diminishing return
Nuclear power will be taken over by the many
Explosions will continually shake the earth
Radiated robot men will stalk each other
The rich and the chosen will watch from space platforms
Dante’s Inferno will be made to look like a children’s playground
The sun will not be seen and it will always be night
Trees will die
All vegetation will die
Radiated men will eat the flesh of radiated men
The sea will be poisoned
The lakes and rivers will vanish
Rain will be the new gold
The rotting bodies of men and animals will stink in the dark wind
The last few survivors will be overtaken by new and hideous diseases
And the space platforms will be destroyed by attrition
The petering out of supplies
The natural effect of general decay
And there will be the most beautiful silence never heard
Born out of that.
The sun still hidden there
Awaiting the next chapter.

1 comment:

  1. I'm just reading this book now and thoroughly enjoying it, it's such a brilliant anthology, I like the fact that it includes both campaigning poetry and nature poetry

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