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What is this thing called poetry? Lecture Three: The political poem.

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1 What is this thing called poetry? Lecture Three: The political poem

2 On March 21 1960, the Sharpeville massacre occurred during a peaceful protest by black South Africans who were burning the pass books which restricted their lives and their movement. The South African police opened fire on the black civilians, killing 69 people and wounding 178. Ian Berry, who was based in South Africa recording daily life under the apartheid regime, was the only photographer at the scene and his photographs were used in the trial to prove the victims' innocence.

3 THE CHILD WHO WAS SHOT DEAD BY SOLDIERS AT NYANGA The child is not dead the child raises his fists against his mother who screams Africa shouts the scent of freedom and the veld in the location of the cordoned heart The child lifts his fists against his father in the march of the generations who are shouting Africa shout the scent of righteousness and blood in the streets of his warrior pride The child is not dead not at Langa not at Nyanga not at Orlando not at Sharpeville not at the police station in Philippi where he lies with a bullet through his brain The child is the shadow of the soldiers on guard with rifles saracens and batons the child is present at all gatherings and law-giving the child peers through house windows and into the hearts of mothers the child who just wanted to play in the sun at Nyanga is everywhere the child grown to a man treks through all of Africa the child grown to a giant travels through the whole world Without a pass Ingrid Jonker wrote this poem in Afrikaans, in the aftermath of the Sharpeville massacre. Nelson Mandela read an English translation at the opening of the first democratic Parliament on 24 May 1994.

4 “The child is not Dead” (PT page 180) Use of a Biblical echo: Gospel of Mark 38-43 38 When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. 39 He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” 40 But they laughed at him. After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). 42 Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. 43 He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat. Use of anaphora: the deliberate repetition of the first part of the sentence in order to achieve an artistic effect known as anaphora ( a latin term). This varied use of repetition evokes a sense of spiritual incantation, raising from the dead, a wish for a different present and future, one of freedom, possibility, movement and growth. The simple, single sentence, stanza that ends the poem adds emphasis and additional socio-historical context: “Without a pass”.

5 “What We Lost”Michael Ondaatje The interior love poem the deeper levels of the self landscapes of daily life dates when the abandonment of certain principles occurred. The rule of courtesy — how to enter a temple or forest, how to touch a master’s feet before lesson or performance. The art of the drum. The art of eye-painting. How to cut an arrow. Gestures between lovers. The pattern of her teeth marks on his skin drawn by a monk from memory. The limits of betrayal. The five ways a lover could mock an ex-lover. Nine finger and eye gestures to signal key emotions. The small boats of solitude. Lyrics that rose from love back into the air naked with guile and praise. Our works and days. We knew how monsoons (south-west, north-east) would govern behaviour and when to discover the knowledge of the dead hidden in clouds, in rivers, in unbroken rock. All this we burned or traded for power and wealth – from the eight compass points of vengeance from the two levels of envy One of the world’s most highly acclaimed transnational writers. Born in Sri Lanka in 1943, he lived in England as a teenager, and immigrated to Canada at age eighteen. He writes both poetry and novels. Ondaatje’s fame as a novelist skyrocketed after the movie adaptation of his best-selling novel The English Patient (1992). This poem presents a mysterious evocative list of what was lost. By whom? Does it matter (or add to the effect of the poem) that the reader cannot know the meaning of all the things mentioned in the poem as “lost”? “What We Lost” read on YouTube

6 The importance of the dictionary: metaphor and multiple meanings Lost adjective 1. no longer possessed or retained: lost friends. 2. no longer to be found: lost articles. 3. having gone astray or missed the way; bewildered as to place, direction, etc.: lost children. 4. not used to good purpose, as opportunities, time or labour; wasted: a lost advantage. 5. being something that someone has failed to win: a lost prize. 6. ending in or attended with defeat: a lost battle. 7. destroyed or ruined: lost ships.

7 Nikky Finney was born in South Carolina, USA. A child of activists, she came of age during the Civil Rights and Black Arts Movements. Finney's fourth book of poetry, Head Off & Split, in which “Left” appears, was awarded the 2011 National Book Award for poetry. For more poetry and info: Nikky Finney “Left” Nikki Finney reads “Left”

8 Questions Self education starts now: some homework questions Look up or find out about everything not clear to you in the poem What is the effect of the inclusion of the Rudyard Kipling’s “A Counting-Out Song” in the epigraph and then quoting from it in the poem itself? What word is the poet asking the reader to silently add to the poem? With what effect? EeneeMeneeMainee Mo! Catch a— Why are several places from South East Asia mentioned in reference to where the helicopter pilot has also flown? “Bong Son, Dong Ha, Pleiku, Chu Lai” – what historical context does this add to the poem? Who is “Mr. Every-Child-Left-Behind”? What are bullwhips? Who is Bull Connor? How does their inclusion in the poem add further historical context to the situation described? Watch Nikki Finney’s National Book Award acceptance speech. Find out for yourself what happened to the people of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Why is New Orleans an important American and global city – what has New Orleans given to the world? Why were the grandmothers and Kanye West finally right? What is the design of the poem? Why do you think Finney begins as she does? Where do we end off? Why delay giving us all the information till the end? What effect does this have on your experience as a reader?

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