John Tranter

I’ve been reading a lot of John Tranter lately as part of a series I’m working on. It involves taking a line from a poem that speaks to you and responding to it. I’m currently working on a response to the line “love is endless oil” from the poem Benzedrine by John Tranter from his book Urban Myths. Here’s a draft of the first stanza.

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Writer, in the afternoon.

Writer, in the afternoon.

(Crime and Punishment mash-up)

I know nothing of means and remedies. I know nothing of higher art. I mistake zeal for action for actual progress and I have uprooted any hope of changing myself. I rent my heart to words. I have never been more of a cliché than I am now. At 27, the dangerous year for artists and lovers.

I grow out of my prejudices and into new ones like a pair of leather boots. My mind clings to a superiority to overcome crippling inferiority to a universe too big for one woman to discover alone. I throw lovers off the scent. Love, it all looks rather improbable. My heart stuffs its pockets with you and I go on humming the tune that saves my life every damn time.

 

Religion and the Pretty C-Bomb

This post will be split into two parts because it deals with two different but loosely connected things.

When I was religious I didn’t swear much. Well I occasionally said ‘shit’ but mostly just stuck to the fat-free cuss words like ‘crap’. I was so strict with myself that if I even thought the word ‘fuck’ I’d feel guilty for hours afterwards (I wish I was kidding). But I certainly didn’t even go near the C-bomb. No way, nuh-ah. Too sinful. All the soap in the world wouldn’t wash out that sucker. So here’s my story…

I

Upon my conscious bitter as betrayal uncoupling from religion I ended my cuss diet and binged. My brain stuffed as many cuss words into my mouth as possible. I said shit and fuck in every sentence and called people dicks (under my breath) but I never could bring myself to drop the C-bomb. In my mind it was a painful word that I’d first heard used in spite. It was classed as the worst of the worst. To call someone a cunt was to insult them in one of the nastiest ways possible (unless you’re a particularly laid back Australian teenager then it’s what you call your mates, but I didn’t know that yet, I was more sheltered than a wombat in a burrow. Yes, I really just typed that).

But soon I became daring. I’ve been told that I look innocent, so I began to say it for effect. Then I began to think about it. Why is ‘cunt’ such a bad word? Why does a euphemism for vagina have to be classed as the worst of the worst? Why is the worst thing a person can be stand in for a female body part? Now I’m not going to go into the politics of it here, others have done that and a hell of a lot better than I could. I’m just saying that I consciously thought about why it was that I didn’t say ‘cunt’. Then I began to say it in my head to try and get rid of the negative connotations associated with it. I said it under my breath. I thought it about the middle-aged woman talking loudly in the quiet carriage. I sang it in my head to the tune of Diamonds by Rihanna. “Shine bright like a cunt face… shine bright like a cunt face…” Ok, so that last part’s a lie, but it improves the song somewhat, no?

So what do I do about it now? I still only say it for effect. It’s still considered by many as the worst of the worst and despite my protests I still haven’t quite gotten over the way it sounds in my mouth. Perhaps I never will, but I’m trying. For now I engage in crafty slactivism. By which I mean I stitch ‘cunt’ onto fabric and frame it. We all have our small rebellions. I’m changing the face of society, one stitch at a time. I’m sure society’s views on what is deemed offensive will change based on one woman’s Sunday afternoon craft project. Give it time.

II

Now this wasn’t an isolated binge. After my uncoupling I went through a spiritual crisis (surprise! I’m still there! Woo! Fun times! – that’s a story for another post), in that I no longer felt spiritual at all. I went from deeply religious to believing in nothing. Not even myself. I didn’t feel connected to anything. When I was religious I would go out into nature and feel this deep and profound connection to god and to the earth. It was euphoric, I used to feel almost high on the country air (later I found out that this wasn’t a connection to god, it was a connection to untreated mental illness. Yay! Woo! Fun times!). After I started taking medication, all connection to god left me and I instantly didn’t believe anymore. It hit me like a train. I felt like my upbringing had been a lie. A hurtful scam designed to make me feel less powerful as a woman, guilty about sexuality, and oh I dunno, guilty about everything else on the planet. I became bitter against Christianity and binged on all the ‘bad’ things. By which I mean I purposely littered, I didn’t hold the door for people, and I called rude customers bitches (under my breath). Did I mention I was a little strict with myself? These things felt like acts of rebellion to me. I felt powerful. I felt how Snoop Dogg (Snoop Lion? Whatever he calls himself now) must have felt smoking marijuana at the MTV awards. I felt smug as fuck. I was sinning and there wasn’t a god in the world to stop me.

So where does that leave me now? I don’t know, cunts, crouched in some dirty alley way tossing Cadbury wrappers on the ground (no I’m not, don’t litter kids, it’s bad for the environment). Still bitter, I suppose. I still can’t bring myself to stand in a church and nature just makes me sad at the loss of connectedness to the environment. But we all have our things to work on. On another day I’ll go into the story a bit more if you’d like to hear it, but for now, let’s lighten the mood with more arty fun times.

Changing the world.
Changing the world.

So my lovely cunts, what’s your small act of rebellion?

I, like prayers, say too much.

Been fiddling with a poem for the last two days. I’m not feelin it. Themes get stuck in my head and I gag on the same metaphors over and over. Here’s the middle of it.

Walking by your bedroom
crumpled flowers of clothes
sleepy mouthed coffee cups, slug-like
used condom visible under the bed
you close the door, chin cradling a half smile
you shrug. Your leather couch is
peeling like the sides of a mushroom
the mountains are fresh between
your torn blinds. Your hands travel
my thighs, I am 27, you are not the first to sigh
with me and I, like prayers,
say too much.

annnnd the only lines I like are “Your leather couch is peeling like the sides of a mushroom” and “I, like prayers, say too much”.

Back to the drawing board. At least I’m putting font to Word screen. Right?