Listen: Aired On Monday, December 09, 11 AM, On The Poetry Magazine Podcast.
"We'll hear the poem preferential treatment by Claire Schwartz. The poem is part of a new series. Schwartz is tentatively calling civil service. The project takes except the relationship between languages of civility and the maintenance of empire so I think there's been recently a lot of attention to the more spectacular or visibly violent manifestations of empire in terms of war in terms of incarceration incarceration in terms of police brutality. But I think there's a way that the sort of more bannel things things that allow those larger structures to proceed unchecked. Still get excused. The series moves through a cast of characters. The son Sir. The curator the accountant these different bureaucrats who are tasked with doing some of the work of maintaining joining these larger structures. Even when they never make contact with the bloodshed. Schwartz also explores the family life of these characters in and thinking about the ways we care for each other. The forms are social relationships. Take heff specific implications for example. Schwartz says that the heterosexual nuclear family. Emily authorized as a kind of resource hoarding. I think sometimes when people partner have children it kind of naturalises the idea that that your partner on your bench come first in terms of how cares distributed and how resources are distributed you. Did you know. Capitalism promotes idea of scarcity that you know public schools are vastly underfunded. And you want the the best for your children. But then there's also an idea about other children not deserving that same kind of care and that ideas often implicit but I think it's. It's very real nonetheless so I was trying to kind of in this poem. Think think about how to bring up the darker side of the underbelly of that care. Here's clear Schwartz. Reading Preferential Treatment Treatment the sensor uses the Black Cran to eradicate sex on payday. He takes his wife and son to shake shack. Whatever you want? The sensor says to his wife when she asks what she should have the censor crosses provide for your family off the list. He keeps tucked in his billfold to track the time the sensor sings you are my sunshine twice while his son brushes his teeth. The boy shows the glass his shining mouth stones and growls. He is a bear no he is a boy in the boys drawings. The zebras are purple and white. His mother hangs them on the fridge. What what beautiful horses? The sensor says his wife's wit Trimble's then abs the children's nails are clogged with black wax. So this is a real encounter in this poem between family life and Censorship Sir ship censor in. This poem is capitalized. So the sensor has a title his title is that he's the sensor using his black crayon radically sex and so this notion that there's a censorship and kind of no we you know arm of the state going on in side. The family unit is really coming powerfully here and reading this poem home. I couldn't help but think about say some of the writing that's been done about how you can really blur the wind between the public and the private. If you think about it in a certain way like Louis L. to say for example writing about ideology right and he says is that there are repressive state versions of this and also ideological versions of what the State does and so. If if you're inside a family you know interacting with your family. You may feel that you're in a private space but actually the long arm of what what the state is doing is reaching into your family unit as well and that this is the case kind of regardless of what kind of government you're living under of course it could. It'd be clearly much more extreme in some cases than others but that really Was My association with this. With the sensor character who's who's always kind of crossing things off censoring eradicating sex and then he becomes a timekeeper with the funniness. I thought it was humorous in the sensors. Singing you are my sunshine twice. While his son brushes teeth and so there are these moments of kind of glimmering humor in this palm at times at the same time that kind of dire and yet the children's nails are clogged with black wax in the end so they're scraping up those black CRAN marks and they're discovering sex anyway and so in a way. Maybe that's maybe that's hopeful. A the character of the sensor and having the word capitalised as well as the humor and the children resemble things that audited to personify certify or even have kind of allegories of power in our daily lives and reconnect are served daily routines and they're dangerous spend frailties with sort of dark forces. That are all around us because I think and you get this from and I think from Claire Schwarz's poems to a sense that there isn't impinging darkness it's quite literally pal. It's palpable but that they owe them selves to sort of our way of characterizing. Eric terrorizing features of the society. We live in so that you know there are there sort of unknown characters sort of working working on what we do. So that we feel kind of controlled in some way but it's so abstract you feel powerless. I like that in poems like this one. And where that sort of recast you know. What if you could see this character and the workings of this character the sort of reach and touch of this character? What would that be like and I mean there is something funny about it but it's like horror movies like you know you sort of laugh nervously asleep because it's so scary and it feels it feels real? Yeah and I think it's interesting Cristina that you interpreted the black wax and the nails at the end of the sort of hopeful scratching away because I thought it was but like even the children had learned how to censor they were like using black crowns a similar censoring manner. I I like your hopeful interpretation better but but and I think it makes sense because the one of the most interesting points of the poem to me is right after the sun brushes his teeth. It says says the boy shows the glass his shining mouth stones and growls. He is a bear. No He is a boy. And it's interesting to me because it's this moment of creativity and imagination and metaphor happening but then even the you know speaker or narrator of this poem is censored they can't say he is a bear. They have to correct themselves. No He is a boy and so even metaphor here is seen as dangerous assign that people blur thinking for themselves well. Metaphor is a luxury to and the poem acknowledges this sort of fake sense of luxuriating at in our society often kinda tranquilize is us with really is sort of a more humor here on payday to censor takes his wife Pinson to shake shack. Whatever you want to censor says and that's like that illusion that's like well you can have it all you know you can have what you want what you want? What is like substituted for what you need? What you want is taking the place of freedom you know of a more substantial kind? The the idea that you're nourishment comes from fast food or something like that allows you to feel like you're doing something indulgent but actually that indulgence sort of his specifying in its effect on people and sort of blurs your acute sense of what to do or what has to be done. Yeah it's interesting that you use lowered tranquilize once or twice because in that in those lines that you were also reading from Lindsey Z.. I kept thinking you know where the wild things are. The child is supposed to go into this imaginative world and transform and then return being better able to behave in a sense and I also think shake shack is just so interesting in this context. I had never really thought much about shake shack before but then I realized that shake shack was a moment of almost terror. There shake shack back could be a shaking of the body in fear you've got a sensor was kind of crossing everything out you could be shaking by. I your fear of what you can't read or what you can't read or locate in yourself because it's been censored it's it's been marked out and I think that I'm never going to read or see shake shack in the same way again after this poem. I'm always GONNA sing of this particular shake shack and how it relates to the wife's trembling later on right and so But what I love about that. It's not the wife trembling. It's the weight tremblings. Yeah so there's a moment when you know. The boy draws the zebras but the zebras are purple and white which is either a sign of creativity or assign. He's not allowed to use a black CRAN. Because that's for censoring or something. But you know when the sensor says what beautiful horses and the wife obviously knows. There's zebras and she has this instinct to make something witty yet. Ebbs away. Yeah I think that's really an interesting echo of shake shack that I hadn't thought about."