Recipe for Metropolis Brisbane by Samuel Wagan Watson
Serves: Nearly 3 million people
(give or take a generation)
1 utopian landscape with a blue river
1 mixture of European cultures seasoned with convicts
200 years of conservative politics
1 trillion tons of bitumen, steel, gas, concrete and treated timber
garnish with exhaust
1. Peel the utopian landscape of most of its flora, fauna and Indigenous flavour.
Place what remains in an obscure melting pot on medium heat.
2. Stir in a mixture of European cultures seasoned with convicts. Other cultural flavours may emerge in the process. They can be included or excluded. Cover and allow to simmer for over two centuries.
3. Every 10 years, add some conservative politics and gradually pour in the 1 trillion tons of bitumen, steel, glass, concrete and treated timber. Stir until the blue river turns brown.
4. Firstly, your dish will gel into Brisbane Town; drain and stir until it becomes Brisbane City; cover, and allow to simmer.
Include the rest of the politics until the desired thickness of Metropolis Brisbane is achieved.
Cook's note: Metropolis Brisbane is best served with the aroma of lead exhaust, sprinkled over the dish!
Sam Wagan Watson's use of the 'recipe' format may appeal to readers initially for the creative use of time and measure. What is the final product of the recipe? Is it something palatable? The elegaic prose is a legacy to what has been lost. The recipe is said to serve nearly 3 million people, but it is the reference, 'give or take a generation', that is in brackets which was the first painful message within the text. Like Heiss states (2003, p2), it is clearly a portrayal of 'appropriation and exploitation of Aboriginal culture and identity'. The mere use of this statement being within brackets symbolizes the invisibility felt by those of the 'Stolen Generation' and families affected by the forcible removal of their kin.The ignorant use of power is illustrated well by the flippancy of the statement, 'give or take a generation'.
The succinct and impacting style of delivering the prose had a profound effect in illustrating how the plight of the 'white' to covet the land of Brisbane and it's land for the sole use of exploitation. It is very well captured with imagery of 'peeling the utopian landscape of it's flora, fauna and Indigenous flavour'.
The use of power could also be ascribed to in the format of the prose, with the analogy of the recipe signifying that the 'cook' is asserting dominance over the materials used within the 'recipe' just as the European colonists asserted their dominance over the landscape. Adding various ingredients such as, 'bitumen, steel, gas, concrete and treated timber' along with '200 years of conservative politics' forces imagery that is not very easy to stomach.
Watson challenges the reader to reconsider their own relationship with the environment, as this poem is indeed a realistic portrayal on how historical 'white' beliefs and policies have negatively impacted on Aboriginal people and their Country.
Shoemaker (2004, p.126) relates the historical theme as one of the most important in Aboriginal literature, further stating that there are many ways of conveying this. I feel that this particular piece makes use of 're-interpreting Australian ( and Indigenous Australian) interracial history'.
Shoemaker, A 1998, Black words, white pages: Aboriginal Literature 1929-1988, University of Queensland Press, St Lucia, QLD
Heiss,A 2003, Dhuula-yula- to talk straight: publishing Indigenous Literature, Aboriginal Studies Press, Canberra, ACT