Below is a short (satirical) poem about development. In Week 1 of my Critical Issues in Global Development subject, one of the set readings is Ross Coggin’s The Development Set. I find creative mediums (poetry, literature, paintings, films) open up different ways of thinking about development. This semester I am going to encourage my students to write a short creative piece. To provide them with some inspiration, I thought that I should first try my own hand at ‘non-academic’ writing. So here it is, my first ever poem.


This poem was first read at the inaugural Development Studies Association of Australia (DSAA) conference, hosted by Deakin University, Melbourne. February 6-7, 2020.


For a much better poem see my earlier post of former student Meg Butterworth’s work here


The Development Zoo



It’s the   elephant   in the room,

The great white elephant?

But is it still relevant?


Or – maybe – it’s the 800lb Gorilla,

Come to bring progress even if it kills ya’,

Relevant? Sure – but is it malevolent?


A pig-headed one-trick pony here to take the lions share,

Of everything here and everything there

Creating destruction is one of its most elementary functions


Oh, don’t be so negative, the cat’s meow

Development wouldn’t hurt a fly


Sure there’s been some mistakes in the past…

A few wild goose chases

And maybe even a few red herrings

But its time to let sleeping dogs lie


There is work to be done

Lives to be changed

Minds to be saved


We cannot just quit cold turkey


Even if it’s clear at times that we’re all fish out of water

Wait – did I say fish out of water?

Sorry for that, I meant lambs to the slaughter


You might think its all gone to the dogs but I know better

I’ve been watching things like a hawk


There is work to be done

Seeds to be sown

Economies to be grown


And if you want to weasel your way out through critique that’s fine

I don’t need your perspective anyway

You can hold YOUR horses, and look for another way,

Cos’ I know what needs to be done…