One of the poets I am most looking forward to listening to at the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival in November is Thomas Lux.I first became aware of ‘The People of the Other Village’ after I was sent a tape of his performance -tender, wry, furious- at Aldeburgh in 2000. You can listen to him reading it here.
Sometimes a poem comes into your life and you know straight away what it is about, the history and grief of its context matching so perfectly to the otherness of its diction that it becomes at once absolutely right both for now and all time.
‘The People of the Other Village’ is one of those poems. There is not a morning, recently, when I haven’t woken up to the news and thought of it. No other explanations seem necessary.
The People of the Other Village
hate the people of this village
and would nail our hats
to our heads for refusing in their presence to remove them
or staple our hands to our foreheads
for refusing to salute them
if we did not hurt them first: mail them packages of rats,
mix their flour at night with broken glass.
We do this, they do that.
They peel the larynx from one of our brothers’ throats.
We de-vein one of their sisters.
The quicksand pits they built were good.
Our amputation teams were better.
We trained some birds to steal their wheat.
They sent to us exploding ambassadors of peace.
They do this, we do that.
We canceled our sheep imports.
They no longer bought our blankets.
We mocked their greatest poet
and when that had no effect
we parodied the way they dance
which did cause pain, so they, in turn, said our God
was leprous, hairless.
We do this, they do that.
Ten thousand (10,000) years, ten thousand
(10,000) brutal, beautiful years.
Thomas Lux, from New and Selected Poems: 1975-1995
You can pre-order Lux’s new Selected Poems (Bloodaxe, 2014) here
This is a good moment to share this poem, Anthony – thank you. It’s a wonderful poem – I’ve used it very effectively with students to discuss concepts such as Said’s ‘Otherness’ and to explore diversity in educational contexts. I am always struck by how Lux’s poem supports students to handle complex ideas more easily than more apparently complex texts…
Thank you. It seemed like it to me. So pleased you use it too. It sounds great what you get up to.
Good wishes, Anthony
oh my. the power of poetry. thanks so much for sharing
My pleasure! As ever with grateful thanks
Ouch! There can hardly be, there can hardly ever have been, a country, a federation, a racial divide, a village, a family even, where such attitudes have not at some time informed its inhabitants. A powerful poem, which leaves you in deep despair. I shall be desiring better acquaintance of Thomas Lux. Thanks for the heads-up, AW
Thank you so much. He is absolutely the real deal. Go for it!
As ever with best wishes