15 August 2011

Tuesday Poem: Giant, by Janis Freegard

I got chatting to a Powelliphanta snail at the bus-stop
a few weeks ago – a nicer worm-eating hermaphrodite
you couldn’t hope to meet. Sorry to hear about that
mine, I said. Relocation of your entire species to a
government fridge and all that. State-approved
destruction of the damp tussock home that’s been yours
since Maui fished up the North Island.

And isn’t it terrible about the coral reefs disappearing
because we’ve made the sea too acidic? And the tuna
being overfished and the polar bears running out of ice
floes. I'm ever so sorry about it, and you too, you poor
thing, all that time in the fridge. I kept meaning to write
someone a letter about that. Couldn’t somebody do

S/he shrugged and said
(with a sigh
waving tentacled eyes
from a glabrous shell):
they tried, you know, they tried
at least some people tried
at the very very least
you have to try.

Credit note: "Giant" is republished by permission of the author and of Auckland University Press from Janis Freegard's first solo collection, Kingdom Animalia: The Escapades of Linnaeus.

Tim says: I finished reading Janis's striking collection Kingdom Animalia on my way back from a meeting about Solid Energy's plans to mine up to six billion tonnes of lignite (low-grade brown coal) in Southland - plans which would not only despoil the Southland landscape, but lead to a massive increase in New Zealand's carbon dioxide emissions. That's the same Solid Energy that, in its rapacious greed, relocated Janis's Powelliphanta and his/her kind to get at the coal beneath.

So I agree that, at the very least, you have to try. But I think, if we and our descendants are going to be around to enjoy poems like Janis's in 50 to 100 years' time, we might have to go one better. We might have to succeed.

You can read all the Tuesday Poems on the Tuesday Poem blog - the featured poem is on the centre of the page, and the week's other poems are linked from the right-hand column.

UPDATE: Having read Janis's poem, Australian writer PS Cottier got in touch to let me know about her story Trail of Disinformation, which advances a novel solution to a similar problem!


Rachel Fenton said...

Very cool - I like this a lot.

Meliors Simms said...

gorgeous in so many ways

Tim Jones said...

Thanks, Rachel and Meliors. It is rather lovely - but it also makes me sad, because I know some of the people who tried very, very hard to save those snails and their habitat. The good news is, they haven't given up trying.

AJ Ponder said...

I couldn't go past this one Tim, snails is somewhat of a family hobby. And the chatty, half rhymes are awesome.

Tim Jones said...

Thanks, AJ. The tonal shift between the first two stanzas and the final stanza is one of the things I like most about this poem.

Helen Lowe said...

It's powerful in its quiet unassuming way; a great choice, Tim.

Tim Jones said...

Thanks, Helen!

Janis said...

Thanks for choosing this poem, Tim, & thanks to everyone for your lovely comments. And huge thanks to everyone who tries to rescue snails.