DEAR FRIEND: THANK YOU FOR YOUR EMAIL COMMANDING ME TO REPENT for my allegedly pornographic use of the word “cunt” in a poem on my website. Honestly, I would normally ignore such an email but I interpreted your message as a cry for help; so I hope you’ll bear with me as I respond to your words. First, let me say that I am not a pornographer but a poet. This is an important distinction in the context of this poem. It would seem that you are a fundamentalist Christian. If I may say so, it has been my experience that many who share your religious affiliation are not very well-versed in the panoply of historic literature and the arts in general and tend to have more than a streak of anti-intellectualism. This may account for your unfamiliarity with the usage of the word “cunt” in history and literature. May I suggest that you read the works of Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400) to begin with. Chaucer is known as “the father of English literature”. He used the word “queynte” (the Old English version of “cunt”) a great deal in his “Canterbury Tales” — a classic work of English literature which appears on just about every school syllabus in the subject and has done for at least the last 70 years! I think after reading his works you will see that the single use of the good old English word, “cunt”, in my poem, is quite trivial when compared to some of Mr. Chaucer’s interesting turns of phrase!
The word itself, “cunt”, is derived from Middle English “cunte”, Old Norse “kunta”, Old Frisian, Middle Low German, and Middle Dutch “kunte”. It is a historic word and only became taboo because of Victorian and later sensibility to matters sexual, especially those words which spoke powerfully of the female genitalia, of which many people are irrationally afraid. The word has an interesting history. In ancient Egypt, an early form of the word was used as a basic synonym for “woman.” Centuries later, Anglo-Saxons used it as a utilitarian term for female genitalia. Its earliest known English usage was in 1230 and the word subsequently started cropping up in English literature. Even William Shakespeare used puns around the word in a number of his plays (e.g. “Hamlet” and “Twelfth Night”). There was nothing taboo or forbidden about it in those days. It is only sexually uptight and repressed people who later made an issue about it and still do to this day.
Really, if you’re going to examine poetry with anything other than a censorious eye, I think you should acquaint yourself with the use of irony and humour in poetry too — not to mention the matter of passion, for that is the context in this poem. The lover tells his beloved (who is a little uptight and inhibited) in no uncertain terms that he loves her cunt. He uses that particular word deliberately to carry all the urgent fire of his passion and sensual desire, which at the same time is as earthy as wildly grasping handfuls of leaves from the ground, pressing them to one’s face in a frenzy — their sodden scent seizing the nostrils like a slow-motion explosion in reverse — before flinging them with abandon into the wind, where they will be carried to an as-yet unknown destination. What he is saying, in full, is this: “I love your cunt with every tiny cell of my soul. Your cunt. Your beautiful flower-like cunt. The cunt you were born with and with which you will expire — its heady scents and juices pheromoning me all the way to the bed where our atavistic fecundity can flaunt itself like moss across the stepping-stones of a raging river’s white-water torrent. I’m drunk with desire for your cunt. Who needs alcohol with a gorgeous cunt like yours?” Oh yes! That’s the context.
You see, my friend, the calumniation and vilification of words is not written in granite but comes and goes according to fashion, trends, cultural taboos and irrational religious censure. So I’m aiming to rehabilitate the word “cunt” — to make it once more the passionate symbol of a woman’s flowerhood; to take it to a place where narrowminded, sexually-repressed humans can no longer clip its wings, deflower it, emasculate or castrate it into something sordid and unmentionable.
Thus, as you can see, I will not be repenting on this occasion. On the contrary, I will be revelling in the power and magic of words. Now, perhaps, you will also be horrified that I “revel in magic”. Well I do; but not in the way in which you will impugn me as doing so. Magic is all around us in the rustling of leaves, in the rusting of iron, in the growth of a bud and the growling of lions, in the birth of a soul from the essence of God, in a cosmic black hole and up on your roof that old lightning rod; the softness of cunt and a piglet’s sweet grunt, all I can see and the things that I can’t; a tree’s secret talk and the life of a plant; if I don’t stop this here I’ll keep writing these words and the list will go on for years and then years. So I stop with it now and pray that, somehow, your debriefing comes soon and on this bright pristine day I give you my… ciao…
© Alan Morrison, 2017