Good writing has the power to take us to times and places we cannot visit and convince us that the experience we are reading is our own.
The background to Ama Bolton’s powerful poem, The Capitalist Dogs, is the collapse of the economic and social structures in Russia after the violent confrontation between Boris Yeltsin and the Russian Parliament in 1993. The communist system crumbled. The capitalism which followed was unmediated and ran unchecked. Ama provides all the necessary factual information in her bold title and epigraph so that her ruthlessly pared down poem can focus on the horrific emblem of all this change – the feral dogs who haunt the space beyond the boundary of the city, the dogs who are worse than wolves.
It is one of the many strengths of this poem that the dogs never become metaphors. They keep their animal identity throughout. Dangerous because they are starving, they are more dangerous than wolves because their situation is out of nature – they have been abandoned by their human owners, who have now perhaps become their prey. The Capitalist Dogs gives a brilliantly understated picture of the fragility of human systems and societies and of the vigilance that is required to keep violence and disintegration at bay. Beyond ‘the perimeter fence’ of civilisation lies a truly terrifying world. And yet, to borrow a thought from Don Paterson’s wonderful poem Two Trees, ‘dogs are all this poem is about.’
Ama Bolton will be reading The Capitalist Dogs on the Competition Afternoon in Bath on Saturday 26th September 2015.