Melissa Lee-Houghton

Letter to a Young Poet


You are no stranger to pleasure. Even the denial of pleasure has its roots in the understanding of the consequences of pleasure. When you read the word: pleasure, some of you might think immediately of your mouth and the food you want to put into it. Some of you might think about a particular object or scene or person or sensation. But I can tell you what most of you thought: you thought about fucking. You are both the object and the subject. Remember it.

You thought about genitalia and erogenous zones and bodies you want to mutually explore. You thought about masturbation and oral and anal and breasts and dicks and nipples and orifices you’ve been well into. You thought about skin and flesh and fingers and hands and holes and tongues and teeth and lubricated pussies. Now, let us move on to why this is most relevant.

You wouldn’t exist if the sole purpose of our species had been to enjoy Nature and enjoy breathing without having to put any thought into it and enjoy eating and enjoy utilising basic survival skills. No. Making fire and quenching thirst was never going to be enough. Our earliest ancestors did not sit about exploring the infinite moral dilemma of who we fuck and why we fuck and who we can’t fuck and why not. They fucked the living shit out of each other. And that’s why you exist. The fucking went on quite without ceremony. It simply was.

So, poetry. Sometimes you might hear the phrase ‘we’re not animals’ but I hasten to disagree. We are animals. We have urges, we have plights, we are prey, we are predators, we are entirely fascinated with ourselves and we are base, sexually inconsolable monsters. You can go to your poetry readings in your best clothes and drink the wine and shake hands with assholes but please note that it is not in your best interests to fuck other poets and secondly, when the young poet in the nice dress or tight trousers is reading you poems about their grandparents you are not at all interested in what they are saying, are you? You’re wondering what they look like without their clothes.

No, it’s not just me who thinks this though I am both hypersexual and celibate (by circumstance, not choice). Rilke understood this and that’s why I’m creating this disgusting exegesis. We have urges so potent they mean more to us than death. We have desires so insurmountable we haven’t the words to articulate quite how devastated we are by them. But this compulsion, which is not only a compulsion to fuck but a compulsion to connect – it’s the driving force behind all existence and all art and you would do well to heed it.

Sex is supposed to be messy. And it can be painful, it can be frightening, it can be utterly lacking control, it can be momentous and it can be challenging to give yourself to it and come face to face with that most irreducible other. Have you ever thought about how a lot of poets you know or have read about or met in real life appear to have no sexual charisma whatsoever? Don’t you find that mildly disturbing and have no idea why? Have you then read their poetry and discovered it has no linguistic or textual charisma whatsoever? Is it devoid of the potency to turn you into a rhizomatic desire machine? Of course you have thought this and think it all the time. Why does this or that poem do nothing at all for you? You can’t fuck a poem but you can experience a concurrent desire within in. You can find it and align with it. This is a lesson you have not learned because you did not want to think of yourself as a person who thinks like I do. It’s ok – I can take the step forward for you as my reputation is oblivious to itself.

No one wants perfect sex. They don’t want a perfect orgasm. They want lots of it and they want it every kind of way that their body tells them they do. We are not the masters of our own desires and neither are we ever able to grab hold of and entirely consume language. We simply suffer it. We eat it. We need it. We deny it. The poetic impulse exists without formula or design and the reader does not want to be told about it, they want to experience what it feels like – that abandon. That loss of self. You don’t cum thinking about how you would explain how it feels to explode all over your own skin or inside your own brain. You just give yourself to the waves. What compels you? Sensation does. Chasing sensation. Textualise that need for sensation. Undress it. Explore it. Take it into an ill-lit backstreet or a forest or an unfamiliar room but for God’s sake never a bed. It doesn’t matter if it’s ever fully undressed as long as you have some access to it. If you cannot get what you want and the climax does not come then that is infinitely valuable. Constraint. Restraint. Denial. LONG FOR IT. This infinite and infinitely complex desire as a form or a mode or a way of being will tell you things about yourself you haven’t heard before. The ones who earn the capability to be poets will find myriad ways to translate it.