Traditional Pearl Sago

Posted by on July 6, 2012

Traditional Pearl Sago in Syrup

Within the can the plastic spoon twirls,
The sago glistens: yellow, red, and white.
For these are Neo Neo Pearls.

From ‘neath the lid the utensil unfurls,
And the sago’s colors, they do invite.
Within the can the plastic spoon twirls.

Around the can the label curls,
And its picture whets your appetite.
For these are Neo Neo Pearls.

This snack seems fit for dukes and earls
To savor either day or night.
Within the can the plastic spoon twirls.

From the palm tree with its fronds and knurls
Comes this colorful and starchy delight,
For these are Neo Neo Pearls.

But the flavor is unfit, even for squirrels!
There’s no need for a second bite!
Within the can the plastic spoon twirls,
For these are Neo Neo Pearls.

An Analysis of the Poem “Traditional Pearl Sago”

In the poem “Traditional Pearl Sago”, the author uses several literary devices to express mankind’s struggle with increasing industrialization and the corresponding loss of essential humanity. The form of the poem itself, which is written in a traditional villanelle structure, represents the rigid uniformity imposed by the modern industrial society and the monotonous, repetitive nature of assembly line work. Throughout the poem, the repeated refrains are used to emphasize the inability of the oppressed working-class person to express his or her individuality.

In the first stanza, the plastic spoon represents the products of petroleum-based industry. The fact that the spoon twirls symbolizes the disruptive influence of modernization on traditional cultures. These various ethnic cultures are represented by the colors yellow, red, and white. The impact of technology is again emphasized by the repetition of the word “neo” (from the Greek neos, meaning new), while the allure of these modern conveniences is alluded to by the reference to pearls.

The second stanza discusses the inexorable spread of homogenized industrial technology. Much as the spoon is said to unfurl, modern techno-industrial influence can also be said to unfurl across indigenous cultures. This can be tempting to those people who haven’t yet experienced it, much as the colors of the sago pearls can be tempting to those who have not yet eaten them. But in the final line of the stanza, the author again reminds the reader of the disruptive influence of bourgeois capitalist policies.

The third stanza describes the way in which Western industrial influence can surround and crush native cultures. The label curling around the can evokes the image of a boa constrictor suffocating its prey, while the appetizing picture on this label symbolizes the way an animal can be led into a trap with the promise of food. In this case, the bait for the native culture is the promise of wealth and modern comforts symbolized by the “Neo Neo Pearls”.

Further evidence of the pitfalls of economic narcissism is found in the fourth stanza, where the references to nobility are a clear stab at the tactics used by advertisers to sell the products of the industrial juggernaut. The mention that the pearls can be consumed day or night shows the author’s intent to expose the disruptive influence of electric lighting on the natural rhythms of undisturbed hunter-gatherer cultures. As with the other stanzas which make reference to the destruction of peaceful agricultural societies, this one concludes with a mention of the indefatigable stirring of the plastic spoon.

The poem’s penultimate stanza represents the destruction of natural resources that results from the unchecked spread of techno-industrialism. Much as the palm tree must be destroyed in order to obtain sago, so must nature itself be destroyed in order to continue the development of industrocapitalist economies. The author criticizes the products of these economies by comparing them to the artificially colored empty calories of starch-based snacks. Yet at the same time, he acknowledges the short-term delight that can obtained by the consumption of these heavily hyped consumer goods.

In the final stanza, the author clearly expresses his disdain for the fruits of petroleum-based industry and the need to reject the temptation of techno-capital modernization. He calls forth the image of the squirrel to represent the innocent creatures that are harmed by the industrial production of throwaway consumer goods and encourages readers to reject these things in the same way that he would reject a second bite of sago. In the final couplet, he unites the two previous refrains to provide a final reinforcement the of disruptive influence of modern industrial culture. Yet in this final couplet, the only two consecutive lines in the poem that rhyme with each other, he also expresses hope that the people of the world can come together and undo the damage caused by industrocapital technocracy.

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