February 3, 2023

Save the Net Books

Blogazine on Books, Arts, and Music

“Australia” by Ania Walwicz [Introduced by Thomas Moody]

In Ania Walwicz’s Australia we get a critique of the country through the eyes of an outsider. The poem’s diction (a vibrant, broken English), coupled with the accuracy of the lamentations (“You’re silent on Sunday. No one on your streets. You’re dead at night. You go to sleep too early. You don’t excite me”) suggests at a speaker with a migration background who knows her subject well. The litany of grievances is reinforced by the use of second-person pronouns, the intimacy of which lends the protest a driving energy, the ‘thou’ addressed subtly changing as the poem develops. We start with complaints about Australia’s too open landscape: ‘You’re too empty. You desert with your nothing, nothing, nothing,” followed by a switch to a more personal pronoun, the individual “you,” embodying the feelings and attitudes of the nation as a whole: “You try to be kind, but you’re not very friendly . You never ask me to your house. You are offending me. You don’t know how to be with me,” until we get to the narrator, who may be addressing herself: “You go to work in the morning. You tremble in a tram.” The poem traces the immigrant experience, from being a stranger in a new country to immersing (albeit with a degree of hostility) into the fabric of the country and becoming part of the “you” – a part of Australia – to become yourself.

Australia

You big ugly. you are too empty You leave with your nothing nothing nothing. You are tanned. old too fast. Morning suburbs watching TV. You bore me. freckles silly kids. you not much With your big sea beach beach beach. I’ve seen enough. You stupid dirty city with bar stools. You are ugly. You stupid shopping town. you copy You’re too far everywhere. You laugh at me. When I came, this woman gave me a box of biscuits. You try to be friendly, but you are not very friendly. You never ask me to your house. You are offending me. You don’t know how to be with me. street street tree tree. I came from crowded and many. I came from rich. You have nothing to offer. You are poor and few and far between. you big So what. i am small it’s in You are silent on Sunday. Nobody on your streets. You die at night. You go to sleep too early. you don’t excite me You scare me with your hopelessness. falling asleep while walking. Too hot to think. You great dread. you don’t suit me you’re burned out You too big sky. You make me a point of nowhere. You laugh with your big healthy one. They want everyone to be equal. You’re dumb. you like everyone else You hired Doreen. you big cow You average average. Cold school day playing around at lunch break. Walk around for free. you never accept me For your own. You always ask me where I’m from. you always ask me You tell me I look weird Different. you don’t adopt me You laugh at the way I talk. you think you’re better than me You do not like me. They have no interest in another country. idiot center of your own self. You think the rest of the world walks around without shoes or electric lights. you’re not going anywhere You stay at home. they like each other You go crazy on Saturday night. you get drunk You don’t like me and you don’t like women. You put your arm around men in bars. you are rough i can’t talk to you You burly burly. You are just stupid to me. you big man poor with all your money You ugly piece of furniture. you ugly house You have relaxed in your summer stiffness. all year round Never fully awake. stump in school. Wait for others to tell you what to do. Follow the leader. I can’t imagine. workhorse. Thick legs. You go to work in the morning. You’re shaking on a tram.