of pigs and poetry

I took a new poem-in-progress into the writers’ group on Tuesday. Its title is La Matanza – the Spanish word for slaughter or massacre.

It’s a piece that I’ve been intending to write ever since we bought the house in the village and were told the guy couldn’t come to prune the trees on the long December puente as he’d be busy with la matanza.

In most parts of Spain, a cada cerdo le llega su San Martín – pigs get what’s coming to them on November 11th – but it seems that in our village it’s more traditional for the pig slaughter to take place on the feast of la Inmaculada.

That juxtaposition of the innocence and virginal white of the immaculate conception with the sheer red-blooded traditional country ritual of pig slaughter seems to be crying out for a poem to be written.

At the moment, though, the piece I have consists of an atmospheric build up, which I think works relatively well, and a far less successful ending.

So, on Tuesday, I found myself thinking about why I can’t get the ending right. I’m pretty sure the problem is simply that I haven’t witnessed the slaughter.

I can imagine the early morning walk cross country to the pig sty, as I do that often enough myself. And I’ve seen pigs on a number of occasions after they’ve been slaughtered. I’ve even heard it happen. But I haven’t actually seen the killing. Which makes it all too easy to fall back on clichés.

So far this year, the pigs next door are alive and grunting. As a vegetarian, I was slightly worried on Tuesday to find myself telling the other writers that if I knew in advance when the neighbour was going to kill them, the poet in me felt I ought to try and be there to see it for myself.

I know they say we should write about what we know, but perhaps this time I’ve chosen a subject I’d rather not know about.

Author: don't confuse the narrator

Exploring the boundary between writer and narrator through first person poetry, prose and opinion

3 thoughts on “of pigs and poetry”

  1. That juxtaposition of the innocence and virginal white of the immaculate conception with the sheer red-blooded traditional country ritual of pig slaughter seems to be crying out for a poem to be written.

    Yes, but to avoid clichés you have to juxtapose the images the opposite way round. The pig feeds the farmer and Mary fed Jesus. Contrariwise, the farmer fed the pig and Jesus feeds Mary. The word “chiasmus” comes to mind, and I think the poem writes itself. All you or I could add to the concept is literary technique. It would be a good theme for a poetry competition.

    If we were tragedians, we’d have to think about how “La inmaculada” is a lady who, like Hera or Artemis, is delighted by slaughter in her honour. Her son is crucified so that she (and others) can be saved, and orthodox belief requires her to approve of this way of organising the universe, however much she may mourn it. But we’re not tragedians, luckily.

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    1. The poem hasn’t ‘written itself’ for me, but that may be because I am still dabbling between the reality and the poetic inevitability without committing myself to either side. I suspect that if I attended the pig slaughter and also the vigil of the Inmaculada I’d find they have a lot more in commmon than I want them to have (c.f. drunks at Midnight Mass).

      Your comments on who feeds whom reminds me of Zaphod being fed (into the total perspective vortex) and reminds me that English is a marvellous language.

      Your comment about tragedians makes me think of Anouilh’s description of tragedy as “clean, restful, and flawless” (Well, that was probably the translator’s version, but it would take me longer to find the original French.) He made tragedy sound very appealing.

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