The Primal Scrawl
My first poem died just after birth
but its memory lives on
clinging to a dangerous breast.
23 July 1989
One day I was not a poet, the next day I was. Or was I always a poet? Was Yehudi Menuhin always a violinist? I’ve asked this before. What if he’d been born in the Australian outback? Would he be known these days as a virtuoso didgeridooist? I was brought up with experience of only a couple of thin layers of poetry, traditional English nursery rhymes and mostly early-to-mid-twentieth-century British poetry. That was what poetry was as far as I was concerned.
When Stravinsky wrote his Ragtime and Piano Rag-Music, other than a few items of sheet music he had never actually heard jazz's precursor—ragtime—in the flesh and, of course, being a classical musician he assumed what was on the page was what the performers attempted to replicate in performance. Wasn’t he in for a surprise?
I have no record of my first poem. I don’t mean #1—that’s the official start—but the ones before that and there would’ve been some. The first poem I remember writing—I must’ve been about ten at the time—was in Scots and about a guy awaiting his execution by hanging. Where the hell did that come from? I do regret not keeping a copy but it’s just one thing is a very long list of things I wish I’d kept. Such is life.
a release of intense basic frustration, anger, and aggression, especially that rediscovered by means of primal therapy
What do we draw on when we write? What feeds us? And is it always wholesome? They say “breast is best” but that’s not always true.