Kinsella, John

Australia, (b. 1963)

Transgenic Pig Ode

  1. Pig, heart-bred, is clean in its stall,
  2. almost clinical, and ambivalently
  3. sexual, glowing DNA that genealogically
  4. connects with the Earl of… and a fair-minded
  5. radical, a dissenting minister… or a famous
  6. female novelist not read now… and back then,
  7. strands of tribes recorded as cannibals,
  8. a swatch of hair or skin
  9. hijacked from the museum,
  10. decoded, set in motion over again
  11. as the patient with pig-heart blooms
  12. in hospital, grateful to the donor pig.
  13. Pig grunt equals words vaguely scientific,
  14. or Babelistic, as in the lab-shed
  15. their cousins, decked up on stainless
  16. steel and plastic scrubbed to the point
  17. of futurity: “We”, they gleam, “stagger
  18. towards immortality!” We are
  19. clean at heart, Cor Cordium,
  20. when in Rome… exorcise
  21. religious tolerance, overcome public
  22. discomfort like the early years of tobacco
  23. advertising, valves opening and closing
  24. like discourse; hey, you visualise
  25. sties maintained by an uncle,
  26. wallow pits and straw sacks,
  27. laid-up sow with a litter of squeals,
  28. and the runt with whom we
  29. bi-sexual poets identify, this ode
  30. to Swinburne and pig-fucking:
  31. the Euro sex-industry argues
  32. it’s near the real thing, perfect
  33. simulacrum of human: bio-ethically,
  34. can this be held up for scrutiny? Sexual feeding-
  35. frenzy as the gut barrow is emptied,
  36. sheep carcass swinging in the shed,
  37. cleaned hollow, pigs profiting
  38. and putting weight heavily
  39. into Anglican collection bowls.
  40. That’s home town self-sufficiency.
  41. A neighbour ran pigs intensively
  42. and their skin was so pink beneath the tin roof
  43. and fluoros. The stench out back
  44. wasn’t mentioned at party meetings
  45. but came up as an ethical issue at town
  46. council — the five mile drift.
  47. In forests of the Darling Range feral pigs
  48. snout roots of hardwood, upturn humus,
  49. bristle and call big-balled tuskers to charge
  50. the hunter: hollow-pointed bullets
  51. that split the skull, explode in hearts
  52. they’d carry round as trophies,
  53. these clean fair liberties,
  54. these pulses and throbbing auras
  55. we project as animal selves,
  56. remove surgically and place delicately
  57. in chambers of destiny.

 John Kinsella. Doppler Effect. Cambridge, UK: Salt Publishing (2004).

The Fable of the Great Sow

  1. Great Sow, who squashed dead her litter
  2. A year before, rubbed her thick sparsely haired
  3. Hide pinker than pink against sty walls.
  4. Flies and pig smells wrought hot under
  5. Tin roof, wagtails working their way
  6. Between pigs and dust and shit, picking off.
  7. To cut across her pen was an act of dexterity.
  8. A leap across the gate, a pivot on the wall
  9. Opposite, and over into a neighboring pen.
  10. Shortcut. I could have gone around. But
  11. I’d done it before, and she looked so distractedly
  12. Blissed in her deep scratch that I took the plunge.
  13. Many times my weight, and half my
  14. Stretch again in length. Reacted quick
  15. And cut me off. Back then it would have
  16. Been easy to talk of her malevolent eyes,
  17. Her snotty nose, her deadly teeth.
  18. Of all human warp embodied,
  19. But beyond anthropomorphism.
  20. My wits were dulled. She was total pig,
  21. Pure sow who’d farrowed litter on litter
  22. To watch them raised to slaughter.
  23. Fed on meal and offal, she’d been penned
  24. With boars merciless in their concupiscence.
  25. She had a reputation for violence against humans:
  26. She loathed them. Us. Thirty years later,
  27. I see James Ward’s painting “Pigs,” in the Fitzwilliam.
  28. That shocks me into recollection. Grossed out,
  29. Exhausted Sow, eye to the light made night
  30. With a forward ear, milk-drained, piglets
  31. Piled sleeping by her side, eternally confident,
  32. Her Self replete in their growing natures.
  33. Even the runt snuggles content in straw
  34. As there’ll be plenty in her sow abundance.
  35. She has manufactured. And as Great Sow
  36. Is about to charge and crush and tear
  37. My childhood out of me, I take this picture
  38. From my future, a painting from 1793,
  39. A painting from nine thousand miles away,
  40. Maybe in a place where Great Sow’s ancestors
  41. Planned their vengeance, passive for the artist,
  42. Brewing generations of contempt inside.
  43. A point of singularity is reached, epiphany
  44. In straw and swill-filled air between us
  45. (Normally, I would gate her out to change straw
  46. And water). We both grunted and she went
  47. Back to her scratching. I scurried out, neither
  48. Runt nor star of her litter, her old fury lost
  49. To pig history, flies and heat of the shed.

 John Kinsella. The New Yorker.  87 (44). January 16, 2012.

Editor’s Note:

The painting of the sow that Kinsella refers to above in the line, “I see James Ward’s painting ‘Pigs,’ in the Fitzwilliam.” can be seen at The Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge, UK. It is by James Ward (1769-1859).

About the Poet:

John Vincent Kinsella, Australia, (b. 1963) is a poet, novelist, playwright, critic, essayist, teacher and editor. Before becoming a full-time writer, teacher and editor he worked in a variety of places, including laboratories, a fertilizer factory and on farms.

Kinsella’s writing is strongly influenced by landscape, and he espouses an ‘international regionalism’ in his approach to place. He has also frequently worked in collaboration with other writers, artists and musicians.

Through the 1990s and 2000s, Kinsella established himself both as an extraordinarily prolific poet, publishing more than thirty collections, and as an increasingly important figure in contemporary Australian poetry, both through his own poetic output, and his multifarious roles as an editor, publisher, and critic.

Kinsella teaches at Cambridge University, where he is a Fellow of Churchill College. Previously, he was Professor of English at Kenyon College in the United States. He is a founding editor of the literary journal Salt, which in 2007 was revived as Salt Magazine and an international editor of The Kenyon Review. He co-edited a special issue on Australian poetry for the American journal Poetry. [DES-03/18]

Additional information:

A random image of a pig, hog, boar or swine from the collection at Porkopolis.