“Nobody Cares Who Wins”

This is one of my favourite poems by Margaret Atwood, in which she contemplates war and our reactions to victory and defeat. Taken from her collection of poetry, The Door.


Nobody Cares Who Wins

Nobody cares who wins wars.
They care at the moment:
they like the parades, the cheering;
but after that, winning diminishes.
The silver cup on the mantle
engraved with some year or other;
a hoard of buttons, cut from corpses
as souvenirs; a shameful thing
you did in white, hot anger shoved
back out of sight.
Bad dreams, a bit of loot.
There's not much to say about it.

That was a fine time, you think.
I've never felt more alive.
Nonetheless, victory puzzles you.
Some days you forget where you've put it,
though younger men make speeches about it
as if they had been there too.

Of course it's better to win
than not. Who wouldn't prefer it?
Losing, though. That's different.
Defeat grows like a mutant vegetable,
swelling with the unsaid.
It's always with you, spreading underground,
feeding on what's gone missing:
your son, your sister, your father's house,
the life you should have had.
It's never in the past, defeat.
It soaks into the present,
it stains even the morning sun
the colour of burnt earth.

At last it breaks the surface.
It bursts. It bursts into song.
Long songs, you understand.
They go on and on.

Fiction Fridays: Interpretations

I’ve always enjoyed novels far more than short stories. I like to really sink my teeth into a characters and a narrative, and spend some time with them. Recently, however, I have found myself reading more short stories and poetry than usual. That could be because reading preferences are not static, and change over time. It could also be that it has just been too damn hot to do any one thing for too long. Reading in puddles of sweat on my couch is not exactly enjoyable, and my attention span seems to have taken a bit of a nose dive. So instead of my thoughts on a novel (of which I have only read three in 2016 thus far), here are three short stories I read recently that I’ve really liked. Minor spoilers (but not the endings).

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Fiction Fridays: Poetry

Two weeks into the year, and I have read two books and several short stories. Alas, the novels are not much to write home about – despite the fact that one was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2012 – and most of the short stories have been mediocre. So instead, here is a selection of my favourite poetry from this week. Once again, I have managed to inadvertently make selections dealing with the same themes: race, racism, ethnicity, identity and belonging.

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Being A Girl: A Brief Personal History of Violence

A few years ago, I was at a writers’ conference for women. We were from different disciplines and what brought us together was an awareness that academia – much like the rest of the world – was still an old boys’ club. At dinner one evening, at a table of about ten women, we talked about our work and interests. Inevitably, our conversation turned to sexual violence, and it became apparent very quickly that pretty much every woman at that table had survived childhood sexual violence. We came from different sub-Saharan countries, and also different class and race backgrounds, and yet we could all attest to the reality that we had grown up in a world where our bodies were public property, and that as children, the feeling of being physically unsafe – particularly from older men – was a daily experience.

Here is a a highly recommended personal account of a woman writing on this topic: Being A Girl: A Brief Personal History of Violence

Fiction Fridays: Motherhood

This week, I found myself – somewhat inadvertently – reading short stories about motherhood. I committed the literary sin of judging a story by its title and/or accompanying picture, rather than its blurb, and had no idea what each story was about before reading them. How I managed to read the same story told several different ways, I’m not quite sure. Not only do they share the theme of motherhood, they all seem to deal with fear and discontent, although in very different ways. Here are three I read this week that I liked. No spoilers!

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