Poetry Shelf Autumn Season: Poets pick a word – Frankie McMillan picks slouch


Recycling the Slouch

Lately, I’ve been thinking of the word, ‘slouch.’ And how being a writer exacerbates my poor posture.  I tell myself to sit up straight, that if I keep on writing, crouched over the lap top, my internal organs will get crushed, I’ll develop a dowager’s hump, my spine will be misaligned, nobody will like me. Then as if on cue I come across ‘Its Face’ by Imtiaz Dharker.

The poem, full of the imagery of menace, suggests the threat ‘ …will not come /slouching out of the ground/ It walks along a street /that has a familiar name.’  Familiar.  I see the shaggy haired beast slouching along a street, leaving behind a beery breath, the smell of onions. The lines are clearly a reference to Yeat’s ‘Second Coming’: ‘and what rough beast its hour come round at last/ slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?’

I google ‘slouch’ because now I’m saying the word out loud and the more I say it the more it seems peculiar, as if I might have got it wrong. (And yet the sound has some relation to the meaning, maybe not onomatopoeia but a sort of sound symbolism).

It appears the ‘Second Coming’ may well be the most pillaged piece of literature in English. References to it crop up in book titles, movies, video games, heavy rock metal bands and pornography.  Even a Russia Today headline recycles a line suggesting that ‘Europe is slouching towards anxiety and war.’

The most interesting definition of slouch comes from the Urban dictionary where it’s cool to be in a ‘slouch.’ A slouch is a period of time usually 2- 4 days when a group of people stay in a confined space to play video games and binge on large quantities of food.

Suddenly my posture straightens.  ‘Slouch’ I say out loud. I hear it as the title of a new poem, and like  others before me, I leap up from my desk, begin to walk the poem into existence.

©Frankie McMillan 2017


Frankie McMillan is a Christchurch short story writer and poet. Her latest book, My Mother and the Hungarians and other small fictions, was longlisted for the 2017 NZ Ockham Book Awards. In 2005 she was awarded the Creative New Todd Bursary. Other awards include winner of the New Zealand Poetry Society International Poetry Competition in 2009 and winner of the New Zealand Flash Fiction Competition in 2013 and 2015. In 2014 she held the Ursula Bethell writing residency at Canterbury University and in 2017 the University of Auckland/ Michael King writing residency.



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