Showing posts from June, 2014

BEWARE, TYRANT: Czeslaw Milosz's "You Who Wronged"

Over and over it happens: I read a Czeslaw Milosz poem I find a bit stolid, maybe even bland, in its imagery and language, and then discover in it crystalline forms, flakes, shards, layers of insight and poetic knowing that just floor me. A recent example of this is "You Who Wronged" (from the Ecco Press Collected ). As I followed what it was saying--warning a powerful despot about his wrong actions and the eventual inevitable consequences; revealing the motivation of those who serve and uphold him; indicting him in a severe judgment at the end--I found myself asking, how can a poem whose language and images are largely generic, even clich├ęd, amass such chilling force? This question compels me for several reasons. For one thing, the poem presents an immediately recognizable political type, in strokes so broad and accurate they could be caricature. For another, it serves as a reminder of the risks we face when we surrender power to those who eat it up with such


It's minus-25 and stormy in Newfoundland. We're in the last leg of the week-long March Hare festival of words and music, the ice so thick on the ground you can't walk anywhere, not even to the nearest Tim's, but Welsh poet Jemma L. King is far too busy observing the details of this strange new place to even shiver in her entirely-inadequate faux-fur jacket. SUSAN GILLIS: How did you first come to poetry—or, if you prefer, how did poetry first come to you? JEMMA L. KING: I’ve always loved wordplay and when I was small I’d borrow limerick books from the school library. I loved memorising them and reciting them to my dad, who found them as funny as I did. But by the time I was a teenager, poetry had become so dull. In school we went over and over “The Passionate Shepherd to his Love”. All this twee pastoral rubbish. I had no idea of the explosive potential of the medium – that it can just hotwire you to somebody else’s consciousness. That came later, in two for

Jemma L. King: A Poem

THE END And then the world turned didn’t it. With every second that swam past, an invisible river that grew, unmistakably, to a sea, an ocean with every second her cells grew smaller, shrank their protean mass until one day, as she combed her hair and saw with every second that her skin looked thinner and then there were children. And then the children had children. And one day the bells rang and she was at last framed, contained, a masterpiece of once-charged limbs, unclocked and sinking inwards. Ashes to ashes dust to dust. And then the world turned didn’t it. Songs were still bellowed in the ale-houses, but they changed as children threw off their playclothes, played little emperors and baby-makers on streets where ancestral atoms once danced and fought and fucked. And then somebody held the four corners of the globe, pulled them taut so that everybody slid, tumbled shrieking into a b