Bolton, Ken

Australia, (b. 1949)

Outdoor Pig-keeping, 1954 & My Other Books on Pigs

  1. Pig Farming. Methods Of
  2. was a book I wrote in 1945
  3. tho what I knew then of
  4. pig farming you may wonder. It is
  5. a human enough activity.
  6. I mean ‘universal’ – did they have
  7. pigs on Easter Island, the New Guinea
  8. highlands, did the Maori? Virgil
  9. knew about pigs, tho I associate him, more,
  10. with bees, my Latin education centering
  11. on a limited number of texts –
  12. bits of Caesar’s Gallic Wars
  13. or Punic Wars (“Carthage delenda est”?) –
  14. & not much else. Virgil. Ideas of
  15. pig farming might be innate. (?)
  16. Where do correct ideas come from?
  17. “The head, boss.” Pigs pretty much
  18. know what they want (isn’t that
  19. often thought to be the problem,
  20. the thing held against them?),
  21. give it to them. “Long pig” was somehow
  22. special dark knowledge when I was
  23. a schoolboy, I mean the term.
  24. A human dish. (No one else ate it,
  25. except the odd lion or tiger –
  26. as a one-off: humans also
  27. protect their own – better probably not
  28. to eat them too often.) But, to return
  29. to the term, “long pig” implies knowledge
  30. of “pig plain” sure enough. It seemed
  31. insulting, to me, back then – to the idea
  32. of the human & humanity & I didn’t like
  33. to utter it. I remember once
  34. someone telling me of an abandoned
  35. hippy farm where they’d been producing
  36. heroin. The pigs were fed
  37. on scraps & excrement
  38. & were squealing. Addicted.
  39. Apparently the noise was horrible. I did,
  40. at some time, sleep near where a pig
  41. – or pigs – squealed all night. I can’t remember
  42. now whether it was simply very affecting
  43. or whether it was specifically because it sounded
  44. human. It was loud, incessant & frightened.
  45. I can’t remember where or when. An
  46. abattoir. In 1945
  47. I had not read Virgil. I do know that.
  48. It seems we’ve passed this way before. In
  49. ‘another life’ I may have been a pig farmer:
  50. I see me, late at night at a plain kitchen table
  51. writing Pig Farming, Methods Of. It’s
  52. electric light – tho it could do with a stronger
  53. bulb. I write it in a child’s school exercise book.
  54. My only daughter has died? It’s hers, hardly used,
  55. & I turn it round & start at the back? – or maybe
  56. continue right on from where she left off.
  57. She had been studying & had written amo, amas,
  58. amat etc. The vocabulary list begins with
  59. agricola” – farmer. As I see it the farmer
  60. does not become especially sentimental about
  61. the exercise book. He may have done, must
  62. have done, at some time since his daughter’s death,
  63. but now he writes. Perhaps he writes with
  64. extra care because it is her book. Perhaps he writes
  65. because it is her book. He has not written
  66. anything else before. He writes now
  67. because she is gone. She was the future
  68. & he was content to work to see her through –
  69. to her adult life. But now she is gone
  70. he must make something else. He is a widower.
  71. I was brought up by my own father,
  72. alone, me & my sister. We kept dogs & cats
  73. & pigeons, a horse. No pigs. Anyway,
  74. there it is, & it has my name on it, 1945 – Pig Farming, Methods Of.

Ken Bolton. The Best Australian Poems 2009, edited by Robert Adamson. Melbourne: Black Inc. (2009).

Editor’s Note:

There is a probably-out-of-print 1950s farm manual called Outdoor Pig Keeping that was written by a different Ken Bolton. When he came across the other Ken Bolton’s book Ken wrote the above poem.


About the Poet:

Kenneth Reginald Bolton, Australia (b. 1949), is a poet, art critic, publisher, and editor of the literary magazines. Since 1982 Bolton has lived and worked in Adelaide, where he is associated with the Experimental Art Foundation, and operates a press, Little Esther Books. He is also the editor of the literary magazines Otis Rush and Magic Sam.

Bolton’s poems have been published extensively in Australian literary journals, and he has published more than a dozen poetry collections, as well as a number of collaborations with John Jenkins. His interests also include art history and theory, as well as continental philosophy and experimental literature. Besides poetry, Bolton has published art and literary criticism. [DES-5/15]

Additional information:

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