Sunday, 21 February 2010


The First Night I didn't Think About Killing Myself

"That razor blade looks rusty," you said. "You wanna watch it."
"What the fuck do I care?" I replied.
You looked at the skin above my wrists.
I clasped a hand over each.
I looked at the skin inside your elbow.
You looked straight back.
"This is clean," you said. "And sharp.
And you won't feel a thing."
I don't know what I did think
But I know I didn't think about killing myself
And when I woke up and looked on the ground beside me I thought
That razor blade looks rusty.


  1. This poem has defined something for me. Your confessionals mostly seem directed to a 'You' a second person (singular?) addressed within the work. I think mine revolves around the confessional person's own head (as I'm sure yours does too), but is almost never directed outwardly, but only used to flay inwardly.

    marc nash

  2. Interesting - this actually read "he" until I finally copied it to the blog. Vanity of vanities I only changed it because "you" scans better BUT I think you're right, and it goes back to my work on oucault and the confessional as a mechanism. PLUS the whiole way I see culture as this great big conversation.

    For me the "you" is almost a life or death thing. I have never - by dint I'm sure of pure accident - taken heroine, but the replacement of suicidal thoughts with addiction is something that's very real. These thoughts - and I wonder whether this is where the mental illness comes in - play around my head every second of every day and threaten to smother me at every turn. The sheer effort of damping them down takes 90% of my energy most days - I CAN'T leave the conversation internal. There has to be a "you", however imaginary. The "you" of being able to put my words on the page is a lifeline, literally. When I wrote obsessively as a 15 year-old I discovered that - those poems, however bad as literature, and their imagnied readers, are the only things that stopped me killing myself.

    I think that's the heart of confessional art - it's life or death or it's fake (literally salvation or damnation). That's why I'm so protective of Tracey Emin's work, and it's why I feel so strongly about people's reactions to Sabina - they're not fake. It's why censorship of confessional art is SO dangerous (hence the intensity of feeling over Daisy's video).

  3. I agree about the confessional, it is life or death -- or it should be if it's going to work at all.

    Excellently put here by you, Dan. That exhaustion that comes from suppressing those thoughts. There's not much energy left for anything else.

    "I don't know what I did think" is a perfect line.

  4. very nice. i have nothing to add to the discussion...

  5. you've never taken heroine because you are a married man Dan (sorry, couldn't resist that one, you set me up so deliciously).

    But seriously folks, I concur with the mechanism aspect, but for whatever reason my conversation does remain internal. I'm looking forward to being able to expand this with your post in a fortnight.

    I want to agree that culture is a great big conversation, but the pessimist in me sees only atomised souls and the overall effect of white noise and repetitions by dint of short memories or lack of clarity as to who one has and has not already addressed one's life pitch to. I don't think many people are really interested in listening...


  6. @Daisy/Sabina - if I had to pick two people who'd get what I mean on a deep emotional level, it would be you two.

    @Marc - yes, I'm actually excited about writing this article now. I read another great article this morning about Jeanette Winterson where she talks about the period where she was suicidal - that too has really helped me.

    I think you are right about our atomised state, but for me that means not that culture is intrinsic to the art, but that we quite possibly live in an age where there is no culture. I stand by "culture is conversation" (as you'll see from the post, though, this is based on a Buberian-structuralist foundation as much as it is on mysticism and perichoresis). If there is no conversation there is no culture.
    So, you see - however bleak you paint things, I can go one more nihilistic :)

  7. That sounds like fighting talk to me.

    I call Sergi Nechayev to be my second. Or failing that, Shoko Asahara

  8. Sorry Danhad to share this, the security word I was asked to type on that last post was a peach:

    typsy! Combining our writing art with the alcoholic intake so associated with it.

  9. You can't have Asahara - I get first dibs on him through Murakami's "Underground" :p