Posts Tagged ‘Don Paterson’

I was writing to someone about buggery. There is a certain genre of person who will never tire of talking about buggery. And who, in doing so, will sound as if they are talking about something much more poetic, like violence, or love, or the search for existential meaning in life. Some examples of this genre of person are, in fact, poets. I have never managed to write a decent poem about buggery. I wonder if it is in part as I have always been the ‘receiver’ in the act, so I have never had a perspective on the scene, an overlooking view, that the sodomiser would do. I have imagined it and seen it in pictures but never had that particular vantage point myself. Thankfully, the two poets I am featuring here, have made use of that particularly ‘queer’ perspective of he who is taking his lover from behind, to great and moving effect.

First I will show you an excerpt from Buggery by Don Paterson. It is unusual in that it deals with a man buggering a woman. Then you can read My Sad Captains by Thom Gunn, one of my favourite poets. I don’t know if he is talking about buggery here specifically, though  I am sure he must be alluding to it.

From Buggery by Don Paterson

and though I know it’s over with
and she is miles from me
I stay a while to mine the earth
for what was lost at sea

as if the faces of the drowned might turn up in the harrow:
hold me when I hold you down and plough the lonely furrow.

My Sad Captains, by Thom Gunn 1961

One by one they appear in
the darkness: a few friends, and
a few with historical
names.  How late they start to shine!
but before they fade they stand
perfectly embodied, all

the past lapping them like a
cloak of chaos.  They were men
who, I thought, lived only to
renew the wasteful force they
spent with each hot convulsion.
They remind me, distant now.

True, they are not at rest yet,
but now they are indeed
apart, winnowed from failures,
they withdraw to an orbit
and turn with disinterested
hard energy, like the stars.

I love the last three lines: ‘they withdraw to an orbit and turn with disinterested hard energy, like the stars’.

That’s what men do. It’s what I got accused of doing. In purely physical terms, it seems odd sometimes that the ‘bottom/woman’ is presented as being the more emotional and connected lover, when as a bottom/woman you can spend so much of the ‘lovemaking’ with your head turned away from your partner, or buried in a pillow  (especially if buggery is involved) and he can’t see your face or know your thoughts. You could be miles away. I was miles away, and lost at sea.

The ‘sadness’ in this poem is accentuated by the fact Gunn wrote alot in his later life about AIDS and the death of many of his friends and lovers. There is something inherently sad about buggery, and the AIDS crisis almost seemed to have been ‘predicted’ by the words of writers like Gunn who documented the ‘homosexual’ experience throughout history. I don’t know why this sadness comes out in the descriptions, both written and pictorial, of sodomy, and the object at the heart of it, the ass. We always come back to Bersani and his question ‘Is The Rectum A Grave?’ The answer to that question that screams out from these two poems at least, is ‘yes’.

marble arse
This was originally written for the official ‘fauxmos’ blog: We Haven’t Kissed Enough Pretty Girls ‘Fauxmos’ simply refers to anyone who rejects fixed sexual and gender identities. But also it relates to the group blog we set up in that name.


It is fast becoming a ‘Fauxmos’ catchphrase. I have to admit it is as good as any I have heard: ‘Bumming up the arse anally’ does have a nice ring to it.

But actually, when it comes to sexual and gender identity, and specifically, control of and limiting of those identities, bumming is a very serious business indeed.

My first experience of anal sex felt like my first time of any kind of sex, all over again. The slight fear and anxiety, the pain when his cock entered my unmarked territory, the shock of being so utterly attached physically to someone. The way he held me and shook, when he came. The strange sensation in my arse afterwards, the sheer intensity of it.  It opened my eyes and made them sting a little all at the same time.

But I never talked to my friends about bumming, not the way we might casually laugh and joke, and share details of the rest of our ‘sex lives’. This suddenly felt taboo. I remember a mate of mine saying she didn’t like ‘fetish’ things, such as anal sex.  It’s not a fetish I thought, it’s just something else to do.

But anal sex has become fetishised in our culture. It signifies male homosexuality, and not in a positive way. If you call someone a queer or a fag, or a sodomite, or a bugger, or a bummer, you aren’t really giving them a compliment are you?

I am not an expert, but I know that historically, the laws around homosexuality have fetishised bumming too:

I feel like I could go on about this subject at great length, not because of my vast experience, but because it sheds a little light on why sexual identity is so ridiculous. Does it matter if you are a man fucking another man with your dick in his ass? Or a woman with a strap-on fucking a man? Or a trans man fucking a woman with a strap-on? Or a woman fucking her girlfriend with a finger, or a fist, up the ass? Do these separate yet really quite similar acts warrant being classified into whole types of people? I don’t think so. I don’t think Melissa Gira and her friend think so either:

I have introduced anal sex to a number of men. I have enjoyed their eye-watering, intense, exciting ‘first time’ as much as I enjoyed my own. I loved especially their wonder and slight discomfort, at doing something with a compliant (yet assertive) woman, that they probably only really imagined men did with other men. This  implied being gay, which they weren’t, so they tried not to think about it at all. I like to believe that I have done my little bit to break down the barriers between sexuality typologies,  and got rid of some of the assumptions and prejudices that make us all so unhappy.

Don Paterson is the only writer I know who has written about anal sex in a heterosexual relationship. He captures something of the sadness I feel at no longer knowing my first bumming partner – who would have loved fauxmos. Paterson’s poem also captures the sadness of doing something that means you don’t get to look in your lover’s face, and you don’t get to feel ‘normal’ and safe.  But what the fuck is the point in normal and safe anyway?

and though I know it’s over with
and she is miles from me
I stay a while to mine the earth
for what was lost at sea

as if the faces of the drowned
might turn up in the harrow:
hold me when I hold you down
and plough the lonely furrow.