Rod MacKenzie
Rod MacKenzie

Queers and men with blunt instruments

So I read the very short “Queer” by Courtney Bassett and was drawn to the “idea” of it, best expressed — I thought — through prim lips:


People tell me how lucky I am

It was not forty years ago I was being declared

Mentally unfit

Never mind the lobotomy

I would rather have my body violated once again

Like all queens before me

By men with blunt instruments

Than declare myself

A medical homosexual


I loved the simple concern of the poem. Of course a person should be allowed to naturally bloom instead of being violated or “corrected”: her sexual orientation must be cherished for the ways it can enshrine our humanity and diversity. However, coming from South Africa and a history of political slogans passing for poetry, I self-righteously winced at the plainness of the language. It came across as axe-grinding, waving banners, intrusive. Oh, and this nonsense of not using punctuation.


Then I discovered that the poem was written by a high school student here in New Zealand. It received a high commendation in the local Cape Catley Poetry Competition and was published in a Kiwi literary journal for young writers, Signals.


That a teenager, Courtney Bassett, could write such a poem, be encouraged to do so at school, and have permission to express sexual identity appropriately, rewrote the poem in me.


Now the poem is smiled through an open mouth, or hissed through clenched teeth. The poem is saddened on the lips of choristers, in remembrance of those — “forty years ago” and more — who were violated.


I am glad to have a teenager point out to me my self-righteous ideas about poetry and remind me that poems can still change people.


And yeah, to hell with intrusiveness.




Tags: , , , , ,

  • Why ‘freedom’ sells
  • Trying to describe South Africa without ‘overkill’
  • Turning 50…and full of bubbles
  • Why are (black) men silent on the war on queer bodies?
  • 7 Responses to “Queers and men with blunt instruments”

    1. Sandile Memela

      It is a great victory over yourself that you see and recognize your “self righteous ideas about poetry” and everything else.

      You may created in the image of God but YOU, McKenzie, are not God.

      Just allow people to express themselves even if you do not agree with them. I guess it will be your grand children who will liberate your from your all-knowing atttude and teach you humility.

      March 7, 2014 at 11:41 am
    2. Momma Cyndi #

      I must admit, I am not a great fan of the unstructured poetry either. It so often sounds like it has been translated from a different language and would have more rhythm in the original. This, however, is quite lovely in its starkness and simplicity

      March 7, 2014 at 5:34 pm
    3. Nduru #

      Sandile, you appear to have a big, fat chip on your shoulder, in this comment as in the rest of your writing.

      March 8, 2014 at 10:41 am
    4. Jim A K Bailey #

      Man will pay the price of his arrogant distance from God

      BEST Be Onward Together in CHRIST

      March 8, 2014 at 4:59 pm
    5. Afro-Canuck #

      Nice piece, thanks Rod. I am in awe that a teenager could write that.

      March 8, 2014 at 8:45 pm
    6. Afro-Canuck #

      Sandile, WTF man?!

      I can only assume whatever you have posted here is some petty tit-for-tat response to Rod’s comment to your extraordinarily racist piece “Oscar would be a hero if Reeva were a black man”?
      Hope you get well soon.

      March 8, 2014 at 8:48 pm
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      April 20, 2014 at 5:42 am

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