Jan 21, 2014

Turning: John Kinsella’s poetic take on those seeking asylum

Award-winning poet John Kinsella offers a unique take on the asylum seeker situation befuddling politicians and the public. Crikey publishes his new poem Turning.

We don't normally feature poetry in Crikey. But we don't normally get pitched poetry by such a celebrated poet. John Kinsella has published more than 30 books and is the winner of numerous prizes, including the 2013 Prime Minister's Literary Awards poetry category for his collection Jam Tree Gully. Judges noted at the time his work had:
"... great technical virtuosity and variation, exploring traditional verse forms and freer, experimental modes of language. They capture the continual unexpectedness of the world, its violent weather, the proximate lives of animals, the depredations of settlement, the demands of the seasons. This is a poetic voice finely tuned to the shocks and delight of country life."
Kinsella's work has long been concerned about the environment, humanity and an "international regionalism". In that spirit, he has turned his attention to the people who seek political asylum in Australia. "I think we've reached a low with the 'turn back boats' stuff," he said. "The situation is deplorable, and poets should be speaking out on the issue."
Turning In fighting the sea, pinging Neptune hidden deep with his heavy trident, the emperor Caligula had his men use whatever means necessary, tearing up the waves, rending still water with swords. The emperor knew Neptune wouldn't give up easily: take no prisoners, he said. Turn back the Nereids and their offspring, they'll share no food at our table. In his human form Caligula was the iron man, chief worshipper of his own cult, his priests of industry heaping wealth at his feet. He grew giddy with success. Turn them back! Turn them back! And the empire jumped, caught up in his fury. Alone with his thoughts, his immensity, Caligula said to himself: the sea can throw up such nasty surprises, there’s room for only one god on the high seas. I will guarantee safe passage for those who take the test, who kiss the bootstraps of my troops, who worship me. When Neptune sent his boats Caligula scrambled his forces, put the empire on war footing, bunkered down in Canberra, said he was doing it for love of humanity, love of his people.

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3 thoughts on “Turning: John Kinsella’s poetic take on those seeking asylum

  1. Dez Paul

    Brilliant. More poetry in Crikey, please.

  2. Jan Forrester

    Yeay, more poetry like this!

  3. Carol Sugden

    How true and how beautifully put. Surely this deplorable state of affairs cannot continue.

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