describe a woman
as prickly or waspish —
and what have you said?
— the white-hot inner fury
only ever hinted at

Some things are much too close for us to be able to view them properly. Right under our noses every living second, issues around gender politics still somehow manage to escape detection or escape notice or escape acknowledgement. We all collude in this. My poem is quite deliberate in using the word patronising, with its roots in the Latin for father — pater — set against the women’s issues I’m pondering in the body of the poem. I dreamed last night of a much-loved colleague, who is passionate about social justice and women’s issues, and in the dream she was being scathing about someone’s use of the word ‘prickly’ — waxing rhetorical about some terrible irresponsibility or carelessness in high places which had had catastrophic results. How could such a mild word as ‘prickly’ describe this? Awake, I thought of the phrase wicked issue or wicked problem, which I came across on Wikipedia for the first time some months ago, and heard on the radio yesterday. We also talk of a prickly issue or a prickly problem. Not that that would normally connote the same thing as wicked problem. But some sufferings are so full of enormity and unthinkability, in a bad way, that we are reduced to understatement. I get that feeling sometimes when women are referred to as prickly or waspish. There also seems to be something of the same thing going on when academics invent a term like wicked problem. It seems likely my dreams are pushing in this direction in response to my failure to resolve the problem of pornography in my life. It’s my ‘wicked problem’ at a personal level.


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