How to be a feminist poet

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1. Be a feminist
2. Write a poem

Not as simple as that
There is a third secret step
3. Use your poem to advocate for women’s rights

and a fourth
4. Advocate often

if advocating means activism
if activism means being active
if advocating often means
being active often
I am not a feminist poet
I cannot advocate, I cannot often

My hands are too full of pushrims
and cane handles to carry this cap

I am, likewise,
ineligible for membership
of the dead poets society
ladies auxiliary division

I’m not dead yet

I will, I know,
die before my time
a reduction of 5 to 10 years
I’ve been promised

(A small loss according to the NHS)
My early death alone
is insufficient
to expedite my application

I am not letting this go
I can’t afford the luxury of activism
of advocating
when I can only go out twice a week
and then I have to spend the next day in bed
when a venue listed as wheelchair accessible
has no disabled toilet

I’m not letting this go
not when my last relapse left me unable to write more than one hundred & forty characters in
one go
for months on end

I am not letting this go
I am a feminist
I am a poet
I’m holding a card
Do you need me to show it.

Author’s Notes
1. I wrote ‘How to be a feminist poet’ in response to the criteria for inclusion in a journal issue featuring feminist poets.

2. The poem appears in the online journal Forage.

Copyright © 2017 Lindsay Oliver


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theoretical disorientation: a letter to my uncle

   To: Dr Carl R Rogers
       1150 Silverado St.
       Suite #217
       La Jolla, CA. 92037

Dear Uncle Carl,

I have a few questions for you, if you would be so kind, if you wouldn’t mind, if
you’ve got the time

If my configurations of self all got together could they beat my internal objects
at cricket or ping pong?

Who would come out on top in a pro-wrestling match, my true self or my false

Would my internal objects recognise my configurations of self in a mirror
crafted by Winnocott, held up by Fairbairn and Klein?

If Winnicott drew a picture of Bion would Mearnes and Thorne see the ineffable
O in his eyes or would they be too busy looking for seashells and existential
touchstones to notice?

What does it feel like to actualize, does it tickle, does it hurt?
Are potatoes blind like Oedipus despite having eyes?

Oh and that reminds me, if you see Uncle Sigi, if you come across him over a
hand of bridge, or while drinking a whiskey sour or a small glass of schnapps,
could you ask him for me please

What are fathers for?
But whatever you do, Don’t ask Oedipus, he knows

And while you’re at it, ask him, ask Uncle Sigi: Why pick on Oedipus?
Why not Pelops? Now there’s a man with father issues

And you, Uncle Carl, what’s your view from Mount Olympus, can you empathise
with Oedipus’s bloody lust, maintain unconditional positive regard for Tantalus,
who hacked his boy to pieces and served him up as stew, stay congruent in the
face of Oenomaus who when faced with his dear daughter’s 18 suitors replied
with 18 beheadings?

Why are you so silent on the subjects of childhood and sex, when my other
uncle has so much to say?

Is nameless dread the same thing as primitive agony?
Containment the same as holding?
Is Klein’s view of the pre-verbal child more accurate than Freud’s?

Who knows, who cares, how can this help me as I sit opposite a fortress of fear?
And yet it comes to me sometimes, in the quiets of the night, in shreds and

Sometimes I listen in a language not my own and hear not just the words, the
sore distress, but the naked truth behind your grand theoretical edifices

I can hear you now and then, the beauty and the pain of your language that
speaks of unarticulatable truths

Oh and if you do see Uncle Sigismund please ask after Carl Gustoff, I know
they had a bit of a set-to, but he was always kind to me and I’ve missed him
these past three years

Yours affectionately as always, etc, etc

Author’s Notes
1. I wrote ‘Confusion’ as part of my final presentation in the Postgraduate Diploma in Counselling at The University of Edinburgh.

2. The poem appears in the Toxic Masculinity issue of Thank You for Swallowing (Volume 2: Issue 4).

Copyright © 2017 Lindsay Oliver

The Devil Slakes His Thirst

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The devil dons his mask
and casts our children from the land
with promises purloined
from the nightmares of the dead

The devil sheds his skin
walks the dark sequestered streets
as we worship and adore
his glory all unbound

The devil stakes his claim
to pitch his shadow on the sea
while we collect his rent
from the safety of the shore

The devil takes his due
with an unforgiving hand
more practised than restrained
and lays his burden down

Author’s Notes
1. I wrote ‘The Devil Slakes His Thirst’ after my daughter returned from the refugee camp ‘The Jungle’ near Calais.

2. The poem appears in Reuben Woolley’s online magazine ‘i am not a silent poet’ here.

Copyright © 2017 Lindsay Oliver