Poem: Surge Ode Lament

This poem is a part of the Thesis Eleven online project: Living and Thinking Crisis

by John Kinsella (Western Australian wheatbelt)

Surge Ode Lament: thinking tangentially over elements of canto XXIV of Dante’s Purgatorio [Gluttons and the newest ‘sweet style’ of lyric…] and Liszt’s Dante Symphony and the hungry suffering in the wake of the reign of the Global Gluttons who firmly believe they have done enough penance for having to tolerate a reduction in profits

dolce stil novo


So easily forgotten the deaths under the stealth
of soundtrack epics and borders of know-how and stats piling up as holiday
season in the Global North is telescoped back into heresy and wealth —

which ‘places’ are up for grabs without a worry
of taking the virus to them (needs must — fun in the sun) — the newer imperialism
of globe-trotting, visiting each canticle, each placebo world of semi-

isolation as one’s freedom is structured as a binary then a schism
of talkback conscience and academy’s body, finger pointing and denial, soul long since
split like the atomics or coal from the breach that is future’s chasm.

Suffering way back on a different level of play evinces
a need for relief, so it was with each elevation via each act of ‘charity’;
popping in like clockwork and travel agents

oil the wheels of economy
anything goes borders definitional
conveniences for destinationalism and bellicosity

but not sanctuary not sweet new strings not catgut mutual
respect or aid but next level next level next level markers
of property of legal

division of well-being and data
pools not the movements and language
flows over vast periods of time the state avers

as pushed into so deeply invested in messages
of mineral discoveries and business opportunities
as the humanities are twisted to assuage

realworld STEM politics, the companies’
wishlist for conquest, for new markets,
for a colonialism of purchase out of trade treaties

quite happy to be decolonised in contracts
and workplace ethics via a utopia of goods
and services, of profit and trickledowns, of facts

to fit the figures, to let us eat enough food
to think we’re ‘living like kings’, to enter the game
of our choice and be victorious, elude

naming names of the starving, our fame
of penitence in rooms of the pit where bodies
are ditched if it all gets too much, consume

the smog then less as we lose breath and foodies
dream of restaurants and kitchenworkers peeling
potatoes, washing up for them, then antibodies

working contradictions and a masked unveiling
of industry and gadgets and the vast pegging and obliteration
of habitat under lockdown the magic lantern sing-

along of mass extinction which knows no let-up no position
statements in boardrooms and house of government,
no will among consumers to consume less to let go of material inspiration

the capital of love and death, the capital of ‘beauty’ and ‘employment’
under conditions of surplus excess gain at the expense
of other workers the biosphere the sweet new style sweet

as newness as straight off the production line the shop floor the tense
changes of whose account the profits end up in the style
of sweetness the newest sweetness and a sweet tooth to floss

as each person each gathering has good reason and all
in all, better reason, but the virus doesn’t give a damnation
for ethics outside separation and isolation and the fall

of each is out of the conundrum the genuine
need to act immediately being swirled into the cornice
of raging and partying and purchasing hydroxychloroquine

to keep power in power via ego and isotopes
across the forests the smudges of snow the heatwaves
the triumph of youth the contemporary versions of Adonis,

the control mechanisms of self, the style of downloads and saves,
the introspection of chat, the languages of ease with incitement,
the right meeting some of the left in their refusal to acknowledge the lathe

of heaven the rip-off of souls through a pathogen let loose heaven-sent
insofar as all on earth is up for grabs for human use the beasts
dumped in the pit the meatworks vapours the love of product —

cease and desist is a human right but the ultimate right to existence
as actuality and ontology is ripped off in the biochemical urge —
restraint comes via power and why on earth would we cede rights

to such edifices such makers of their own statuary by a surge
of hugs and love and sweet new sweetness when a little more
self-restraint will prevent the imperialists ultimately purging

what self-controls we still have — and many don’t have at core
right down to sensations and awareness of a world outside
themselves taken away by the sweet songs of industry the store

of singing in servers cooled with all the planet has left inside
(and outside) of it? And I say this secluded and on the threshold
of joblessness but isolated and privileged on stolen land

while someone rapidly discharges a high-calibre weapon in the fold
of valley and a drilling team take samples closer and closer
to the last great forest around here, and I empty Virgil over the fool’s gold

tin-panned down the hillside over the years since terracing and a roof over
the sweet new style antithesis left human praise and threw itself
to be picked over and digested and shat out and nested and rolled by that mover

of dirt to tap the termite threads of de-housing, the echidna, who herself
will not translate into the self-determinations of Hesiod across the zones
of time and space on the forked roads of terror and thyself

anaesthetised or inoculated or rendered unto the ships of clones
the brave ambitious sweet singing warriors of greed whose generosity
is facilitated by the rip-off ethics their redistributions via religion

which is not culture which is not family which is not a city
in the death-throes with hunger so frightening it is placed as history
as it’s happening because it can’t be in the now, not admitted, beyond pity

beyond the heavenly attributes of woody pears and native plums of our earthly
vertical trees flipped via Starlink vision of erasure of vegetation and the groves
of sylvan worship and the military payload burning up like causality

not eaten but crashed and burnt beyond this beautiful style of love
that Eve was only part of as was Adam beyond encroachment of flesh but not breath
beyond typecasts and spectrums and paradoxes of community we love, we truly love.


John Kinsella’s most recent volumes of poetry are Drowning in Wheat: Selected Poems 1980-2015 (Picador, 2016), The Wound (Arc, 2018), Open Door (University of Western Australia Press, 2018) and Insomnia (Picador, 2019; WW Norton, 2020).His volumes of stories include In the Shade of the Shady Tree (Ohio University Press, 2012), Crow’s Breath (Transit Lounge, 2015) and Old Growth (Transit Lounge, 2017). His recent novels include Lucida Intervalla (University of Western Australia Press, 2018) and Hollow Earth (Transit Lounge, 2019). His volumes of criticism include Activist Poetics: Anarchy in the Avon Valley (Liverpool University Press, 2010) and Polysituatedness (Manchester University Press, 2017). His new memoir Displaced: a rural life (Transit Lounge, 2020) has been widely reviewed in Australia.

He is a Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge University, and Professor of Literature and Environment at Curtin University, but most relevantly he is an anarchist vegan pacifist of over thirty five years. He believes poetry is one of the most effective activist modes of expression and resistance we have. He often works in collaboration with other poets, writers, artists, musicians and activists.

John Kinsella wishes always to acknowledge the traditional and custodial owners of the land he comes from and so often writes about – the Ballardong Noongar people, the Whadjuk Noongar people, and the Yamaji people.

One thought on “Poem: Surge Ode Lament

  1. Pingback: Update: Living and Thinking Crisis online series | thesis eleven

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s