Poetry Shelf poem archives: Liz Breslin celebrates Anne Kennedy’s ‘I was a feminist in the eighties’

 


I was a feminist in the eighties

 

To be a feminist you need to have
a good night’s sleep.

To be a feminist you need to
have your consciousness raised
and have a good night’s sleep.

To be a feminist you need to
have regard for your personal well-being
have your consciousness raised
and have a good night’s sleep.

To be a feminist you need to
have a crack at financial independence
have regard for your personal well-being
have your consciousness raised
and have a good night’s sleep.

To be a feminist you need to
champion women, have a crack at
financial independence, have regard
for your personal well-being
have your consciousness raised and
have a good night’s sleep.

To be a feminist you need to do the
childminding, washing, shopping, cooking and cleaning
while your mind is on higher matters
and champion women, have a crack
at financial independence, have regard
for your personal well-being
have your consciousness raised
and have a good
night’s sleep.

To be a feminist you need to button
your coat thoughtfully, do the childminding
washing, shopping, cooking and cleaning
while your mind is on higher matters
and champion women, have a crack at
financial independence, have regard for
your personal well-being, have your
consciousness raised and have
a good night’s
sleep.

To be a feminist you need to
engage in mature dialogue with
your spouse on matters of domestic
equality, button your coat thoughtfully
do the childminding, washing, shopping, cooking and cleaning
while your mind is on higher matters
and champion women, have a crack at
financial independence, have regard
for your personal well-being, have
your consciousness raised and
have a good
night’s
sleep.

Then a lion came prowling out of the jungle
and ate the feminist all up.

 

Anne Kennedy

from Sing-Song (Auckland University Press, 2003)

 

 

This poem comes from Anne Kennedy’s 2003 book Sing-Song, though I found it browsing Best New Zealand Poems when I was a feminist in the early 2000s and it totally called me on my shit-heaping of perfection on expectation on repeat. It made me laugh and then it got me thinking. All those aspirations. I love how the list builds seemingly statically, and then the subtle rejigging of the line breaks: how the washing, shopping, cooking and cleaning stick out uncomfortably, the unsettled promise of the good night’s sleep. I love the truth in it, and the futility. Serious grappling in a sing-song frame. And what a killer ending. Fucking lion. Also, fucking buttons. Just saying.

Liz Breslin

 

 

Liz Breslin is a feminist in the 2020s as well as other things including a writer and editor. She’s working on poems, a play and lyrics for The Vegan Karate Club Band.

Anne Kennedy is a poet, fiction writer, screenplay editor and teacher. Her latest book is Moth Hour (AUP), long-listed in the 2020 Ockham Book Awards. The Ice Shelf (VUP), a novel, appeared in 2018. Awards and residencies include the NZ Post Book Award for Poetry, the Montana Book Award for Poetry, the University of Iowa International Writers’ Program (2017), and the IIML Writers’ Residency (2016).

Auckland University Press page

 

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