Collis, Stephen

Canada, (contemporary)

suckling pigs

  1. after Jorge Luis Borges
  3. In the very mire of death, as there is
  4. only a soil because things have died
  5. to produce it—rotting remembrance
  6. as a sweet compost thinking—sing, O
  7. pigs, sucking deep at the muddy breast—
  8. so good from where they are,
  9. if a sorrowing sow could speak
  10. tell its story fat and full
  11. the dream of swimming and the
  12. river of blood—or its radical digging
  13. at the root, burrowing to get
  14. under the fence, and, escaping
  15. into the fresh pasture, all my sweet
  16. suckling pigs free at the fringe
  17. of the distinctions, a wild squealing
  18. sound slipping through tree cover,
  19. the farm and the far field, this
  20. lying fallow and that bearing its yield.

© Stephen Collis. Anima/lung. Intrepid Tourist Press, Union Bay, BC (1998).

Editor’s Note:

In his 1942 essay The Analytical Language of John Wilkins the author and poet Jorge Luis Borges offered up an alternate proposal to that of Wilkins, a 17th-century philosopher, who proposed universal language based on a classification system that would encode a description of the thing a word describes into the word itself.

In his alternative proposal, Borges wanted to illustrate the arbitrariness and cultural specificity of any attempt to categorize the world. He used an example of an alternate taxonomy taken from an ancient Chinese encyclopædia entitled Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge.

In this taxonomy, all the world’s animals were divided into one of 14 categories. Translated from Borges’ Spanish “piglets” or “suckling pigs” was one of the 14 catagories.

About the Poet:

Stephen Collis (contemporary) is a Canadian poet, critic, author, social activist and teacher. Collis is a member of the Kootenay School of Writing collective and teaches American literature, poetry, and creative writing at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, B.C.

His essays on contemporary poetry and poetics have appeared in many Canadian and U.S. journals. Collis is also the author of two books of study/criticism: Phyllis Webb and the Common Good (Talonbooks 2007) and Through Words of Others: Susan Howe/George Butterick, a Correspondence (ELS 2006), as well as the editor, with Graham Lyons, of Reading Duncan Reading: Robert Duncan and the Poetics of Derivation (Iowa University Press 2012).

He has edited Companions & Horizons: An Anthology of Simon Fraser University Poetry (WCL 2005). An activist and social critic, Collis’ writing on the Occupy movement is collected in Dispatches from the Occupation (Talonbooks 2012).

Stephen Collis is the author of five books of poetry, including the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize winning On the Material (Talonbooks 2010) and three parts of the on-going Barricades Project: Anarchive (New Star 2005), The Commons (Talonbooks 2008), and To the Barricades (2013). [DES-06/14]

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