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.
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.
I LOVE YOU, I LOVE YOU!