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Featured poem - March 2010

This piece of writing was selected by the staff at the Scottish Poetry Library which receives Foundation funding from the Scottish Arts Council

To a young daughter

Sore as the sorest thumb you think
you're sticking out like, clubbed today
by differentness, cut off, left out,
I'd fold you up in ugly-duckling
promises of future perfect

sisterhood revealed, but then
I think of swans, those debutantes
who grace the loch in glossed parade -
that brutal elegance, that blank
exactitude! - and I recall

instead the mountain hare, whose pelt
pulsates with light and dark, a beat
that's metered by her essence, not
the world's erratic seasons; who,
beneath a mild December sky  

(no snow to coat the bog-black peat,
to smooth the stalky heather), finds
herself a radiant dissident,
her bluewhite glow a lonely vote
for somewhere else's winter.  Spied,  

she freezes in a bid to fade
that's doomed by what she is;  and yet
she lives; she fears and lives, preserves
her only self, that soon the world
must answer her with snow. 

Kona Macphee, from Perfect Blue (Bloodaxe Books, 2010)


About the poet

Kona Macphee was born in London but grew up in Australia, where she flirted with a range of occupations including composer, violinist, waitress and motorcycle mechanic. Eventually she took up robotics and computer science, which brought her to Cambridge as a graduate student in 1995. She now lives in Perthshire, where she works as a freelance writer and tutor, and moonlights as the co-director of a software and consultancy company. Kona Macphee

Kona received an Eric Gregory Award in 1998. Her first collection, Tails, was published by Bloodaxe Books in 2004, and she is selling the remaining copies to raise money for UNICEF.

Her second collection, Perfect Blue, is recently published by Bloodaxe Books. To support new readers of poetry, she has released a free companion e-Book for Perfect Blue, including author commentaries on all the poems.

Commentary on the Poem

[This commentary is taken from The Perfect Blue Companion, a free e-book containing commentaries on all the poems in Perfect Blue.]

I hate the way children attempt to force conformity on each other - that prescriptive herd mentality laying down what you should wear, what you should own, what you should like, what you should think. (I don't believe this tendency necessarily goes away in adulthood; we simply become marginally more judicious or self-controlled in our expression of it, often, ironically, in the service of seeming like that great job-interview staple, a "team player".)

Girls enforce conformity in a particularly noxious way, by pointedly excluding those who refuse, or simply fail, to assume the camouflage of being just like everybody else. I was bullied on and off at school; I wish I could attribute this to having been brave enough to be myself, but I fear I was simply inadequately skilled at hiding it.

My own experiences have left me over-sensitive, so it's particularly difficult for me to give calm and judicious advice when any of the girls in our household are experiencing "peer-group issues". My honest prescription - "just be yourself and you'll be happier in the long run" - must sound pretty hollow to a six-year-old with nobody to play with at break-time. E.E. Cummings' oft-quoted and spot-on advice to young people is probably no more encouraging:

To be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.

See also
* Scots featured poem
* Literature in Scotland
* Gaelic section
* Previous featured poems
Related internet links
* Scottish Poetry Library
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