A363: Conflict and Tension, Activity 2.2



The document I chose to write about through this activity – a letter of sorts – is Kurt Cobain’s suicide note. (the website behind that link; ‘Letters of Note’, is a goldmine of potential inspiration by the way).

As you probably know, Cobain took his own life in 1994 at the age of 27, with his band, Nirvana, at the pinnacle of international rock music success. The suicide note found next to Cobain’s body was addressed to ‘Boddah’; an imaginary friend from his childhood.

There is inherent tension within the soon-to-be-realised threat of self-destruction the note contains. Though rather muddled (the rambling form is a reflection of the sorry mental state of a man whose lyrics often contained powerfully succinct poetry), it appears to be an attempt by Cobain to articulate the internal conflict that has brought him to this darkest hour. It addresses the conflict between his ostensibly blessed life of success and adulation and the deep depression he finds himself battling. In trying to explain the decision to end his life, he highlights the contrast between his outlook as a carefree, loving, and enthusiastic youth and his final hours as a deeply tortured soul ‘numb’ to the world. He notes that the same loving spirit apparent in his daughter only serves as a bitter reminder of what he was. He also refers to fellow rock star Freddie Mercury as a contrasting example of someone who was able to ‘relish’ the trappings of fame in a way he himself is unable to do.

In response, one could perhaps write a direct reply to the letter, in an imagined effort to dissuade Cobain from the action he was intent on. There’s also potential for prose exploring the happy adolescence the letter refers to and how a dark fate hung over it. One could also write focussing on the reference to Freddie Mercury, contrasting vastly different ways the two stars handled their fame, or even imagining a conversation between the two in the afterlife.

I chose to draft a short poem from the perspective of the imaginary character of Boddah. Echoing Cobain’s words as an ethereal part of his own psyche, but also as an old friend greeting him in his final moment.


Boddah’s Lament


Oh tortured number sweetly sung.

With sound from shaken shackles wrung.

This fateful requiem begun.


it’s better to burn out than to fade away.


Oh happy day when last we met.

That playful, tuneful pals’ duet

untouched by fear or sorrow yet.


because everyone is good and will do her no harm.


Now in such darkness I reside.

No loving kisses here abide.

Such promise left unsatisfied.


the miserable, self-destructive, death rocker that I’ve become.


From these depths let love take wing.

Let angels from our hymnal sing

to herald my reluctant king.



A363: Advanced Creative Writing

Seven years after commencing my studies, I am due to graduate with a BA (Hons) in English Language and Literature from the Open University next summer.

As well as a short course science module (Galaxies, stars and planets: S177), my final work toward my degree will be  A363: Advanced Creative Writing. It’s recommended that students start a blog to record some of the work they produce in the course, and this was a large part of the motivation for maninthesand.com.

The module opened on a discussion of genre, and the first short piece of writing I produced was in response to the instruction to write in continuation of the following (provided) paragraph of prose:

The church clock strikes eight, so those villagers who are awake know without checking that it is six. A cock crows. A body lies across the doorstep of a church, a line of crumb-carrying ants marches across the fedora covering his face. There is a serene, momentary quiet after the chimes cease. A figure glides past the church wall, before the silence is cracked by a baby crying.

A list of suggested titles was presented and students were asked to write with the genre suggested by the title they chose in mind. I wrote the following under the title:

The Life History of Guillermo Brown

Then the scene before me shifts and I’m viewing the sky from below. Shock at the instantaneous change in perspective makes me gasp and there’s silence once more. A high-sided grey canyon encloses my vision from all sides. The same bright expanse I looked down from within before now appears above it, searing white. All around is warm.

Suddenly a shadow descends as an enormous dark shape fills my view from above. Instinctively my hand moves to shield my eyes from the light so as to perceive some identifying detail in the massive black expanse.

That’s when I notice my injuries. Both of my arms are heavy with swelling. My hands are pudgy pink bulbs and my sausage-like fingers sprout from them at uncomfortable angles, each one concealing a tiny bright fingernail at the end of their pillowy length, like a brass tack in a freshly upholstered sofa.


That’s when I notice my injuries…

In shock and fear of my grotesque appearance I vocalise a tiny, reedy warble that seems to instantly dry and constrict my throat. I make to clear it, but my cough too is muted to the same type of thin, wispy half-noise.  I shift slightly in the hope of stretching out the kink in my windpipe, or larynx, or diaphragm or whatever it may be. Moving my torso provides a deeply unpleasant yet strangely familiar sensation and with it the unwelcome knowledge that I’m wearing a soiled nappy.

The next moment sends a chill of fear to the core of my being as three things dawn on me;

I am a baby.

I am lying inside a pram lined with grey corduroy.

The enormous shape above me is my father’s face.

First blog post indeed

A wannabe writer on the precipice.

Spat out of the humdrum fiscal safe house of a customer service call centre with a nagging resentment of free-market capitalism and a vitamin D deficiency.

Six months away from graduating with a degree 15 years overdue.

Awake to the sense of cataclysm in the air.

This will bloody well have to be it.