This post first appeared on Igloo’s blog, here.
In light of the horse meat scandal, Tesco’s latest poem, What Burgers Have Taught Us, has rocked the literary community.
Widely published, Tesco’s previous poems have included amusing two-liners, neat rhyming couplets, and even postmodern subversions of the written word, which play on the tensions within semantics and question the very meaning of meaning itself.
Their latest poetic piece is a topical apology, which in rhythmic ebbs and flows references the anxious back-and-forth between past mistakes and determined future changes.
The poem begins strongly with an admission of the ‘problem’ facing the author, with the alliterated ‘burgers and bolognese,’ touching momentarily, even flippantly, on the specific products, if only to dismiss them, along with some of Tesco’s own responsibility, in the fourth line: ‘It’s about the whole food industry.’
The repetition of ‘We’, even in its plurality, brings the emphasis back to Tesco personally: ‘We’ve been working on it,’ ‘we really do need’, ‘we need to’, while offering the poem a coherence in the theme of personal responsibility.
‘We know that our supply chain in too complicated‘ enacts this complexity in its awkward cadence, and provides a contrast with the impacting simplicity of: ‘So we’re making it simpler’.
The poem then moves through tenses past, present, and future in rolling lines that culminate in a promise, whose expression in the negative is a hinted admission of previous failures, previous ‘exceptions’:
We’ve already made sure that all our beef is from the UK and Ireland.
And now we’re moving on to our fresh chickens.
By July, they’ll all be from UK farms too. No exceptions.
The poem ends with a series of avowals, tempered by the conditional:
We know that all this will only work if we are
open about what we do.
And if you’re not happy, tell us.
This is it.
We are changing.
The shortening lines draw our gaze to the author’s name below, tying the finality of ‘This is it’ and the significance of ‘changing’ to ‘Tesco.’