Poo poet Scott Manley Hadley (SMH) chats to some writers about poo. Let’s imagine them sat in a row of cubicles, each with their trousers around their ankles and their bare buttocks pressed against cold plastic.
These writers are: Anonymous Voice (AV); Harry Gallon (HG), author of Every Fox Is A Rabid Fox and The Shapes of Dogs’ Eyes (both Dead Ink Books); Todd Dillard (TD), described as “essayist, author, poet, SCBWI grant-winner, & nerd”; and Mark Nash (MN), whose Twitter bio defines him as “a literary molotov cocktail thrower”, which sounds LETHAL in the confined space of imaginary public conveniences.
SMH: Let’s kick things off with something simple. Have you ever written – in published or unpublished writing – a scene where someone does a poo?
SMH: None of you? Jesus. Why not?
AV: Pencil broke.
HG: I can’t think of a good reason. I’ve mentioned it, sure, but to my recollection not written an entire scene.
TD: I’ve never manufactured a plot that needed a bowel movement to move forward.
MN: Doesn’t work as a metaphor.
SMH: Sorry, but none of those reasons are good enough. Seriously, why not? Have you written an eating scene? Where does that food go?
HG: I don’t think I dwell on eating either. My writing’s less specific to immediate things like that.
MN: Too many damn eating scenes for me to add to the number.
TD: I have written an eating scene. I imagine chapter breaks are also smoke/bathroom breaks for characters.
SMH: Are you writing like fantasy or science fiction stuff where people don’t need to poo due to either like magic or no wastage diets or something?
AV & MN: No
HG: Absolutely not.
TD: Sometimes, yes.
SMH: Have you ever written a sex or like erotic scene? How about a scene where someone feels desire? And you’ve done that, but never written a scene where someone needs a poo? Like, seriously? Fucking perv. Get over yourself. And yes, this is a question. Respond to my points please.
HG: I wrote a sex scene in my last book. It was mostly dialogue, no description, kinda weird, more about character interaction I guess. I didn’t want to focus on describing sex, because sex kinda sounds silly. Plus, that part of the narrative was in 1st person present, and who has an inner monologue going while someone’s banging them? [SMH: (slightly too earnestly) Not me.] My protagonist has issues, but not that kind…
TD: All my sex scenes are about disappointment. Seems like a good poop would be about celebration.
MN: Yes, one was a post-coital cigarette scene full of sexual frisson – metaphor you see!
SMH: What about if you imagine writing about shit? What would it be like?
TD: If I end up writing prose about scat, I would write about my daughter, and being a new dad, and the parental training I undertook to become a sommelier in child shite. In which case, yes, there were exceptional and unhealthy and regular poos. A whole spectrum, really.
HG: If I was writing a scene in which someone was crapping, I’d probably go for a poop that was causing trouble. My protagonists feel like their bodies are against them, like they’re rotting from the inside. Maybe that just means they’re constipated?
SMH: Has your writing process ever been interrupted by needing to go for a poo?
TD: I write on the computer, edit on my phone, so no, #2 doesn’t interrupt my writing process, because I just edit instead.
HG: Can’t get started without that morning dump. It’s all I think about, and it ain’t comfy to sit down, is it?
MN: Yes, inevitably, also interrupted by needing to eat, drink. But writing trumps sleep.
SMH: Do you read while pooing?
AV: Yes, German mags.
HG: Yes, always.
TD: Yes! Usually my work, or an article about American politics.
MN: Yes, also watch YouTube vids on the khazi.
SMH: Have you ever wiped the poo from your arse with paper with writing on it? What did it say? The brand name of a toilet paper company DOES COUNT, yes, so please tell me that.
TD: There may have been a desperate moment in my life where I misappropriated the New York Daily News.
HG: At a house party once, having given myself the shits after ingesting… something. I used a torn up newspaper. Can’t recall the headline, but it must’ve made a splash…
SMH: Name an iconic pooing scene from literature. If you can’t, name an iconic sex scene in literature and then reflect on whether you poo or make love more in real life and consider the way you think about the world.
TD: There’s that scene in Naruto where he drinks sour milk…?
MN: Love the scat chat in non-fic “The Belly Of The Beast”. That was all about metaphor of being in a tiny prison space, trying to keep clear of the shithole, until you break down & merge with it.
HG: I can’t recall one, unfortunately. Am I not as well read as I’d thought? And no iconic sex scenes spring to mind, either, though I’ve definitely read them. Anais Nin. I’d say either doing a poo or having sex is the best way to start any/every day, and that really impacts how I see the world/the potential for each new day to be good. Great poop, great day.
SMH: (sarcastic) Thanks for none of you mentioning previous #fecalfridays posts. (Serious again) Would you like there to be more mentions of poo in literature? Whatever your response, why?
MN: Not bothered really.
TD: I had a roommate who used to write scenes where all his characters pooped. Long scenes, Faulkner-length scenes, with nary a paragraph break. They were meditative, intense, insane even, and came with an obvious ending. I wouldn’t mind reading more writing of that sort, whether or not it occurs on a porcelain throne.
AV: No, too real
HG: Yes, for the same reason we can’t ignore the evolution of technology and its increasing impact on our lives in literature.
SMH: Do you have any personal poo-related anecdotes that you tell on a regular basis?
SMH: Tell me what your favourite children’s book franchise is. (e.g. Harry Potter, Anne of Green Gables, Lord of the Rings, Twilight, Famous Five, whatever). Do you remember anyone shitting in any of these? No, you don’t, because no one ever does. Do you feel that the absence of normalised pooing in children’s literature makes us feel that we are unnatural in our bowel movements and thus grow up disgusted and repressed and uncomfortable talking about something that most of us do every day?
TD: I used to run a children’s section in a book store; “Everybody Poops” is a regular seller. I think the social normalization of pooing occurs before chapter books. You’d be surprised at the number of times I talk to people about their “lactose sensitivity,” which is just adult code for “milk sometimes makes me almost crap myself.”
MN: Didn’t read as a kid and don’t read ’em as an adult. I’m guessing they don’t have poo scenes though, unless Famous Five’s dog takes a dump.
HG: Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, Biggles. No fucking pooing! Which is bizarre, especially for kids. Kids love poop. And it definitely has a detrimental effect on the normalisation of conversation surrounding natural body functions.
SMH: Christ, the fact that most people feel more comfortable talking about their sex lives than their pooing lives – to me – reeks of a society in denial of its own base self. Do you agree?
AV & HG: Yes.
TD & MN: No.
SMH: Describe your most recent poo.
TD: Efficiently done.
HG: The aftermath of a larger preceding poo.
MN: Marked down on my scrutineer chart. Trying to determine if after 50 years of chocolate consumption I have now developed an intolerance for it.
SMH: Now, that’s all my questions. Anything to add?
MN: just wanted to say, being British I don’t think we talk about sex either… [SMH: DM me.]
TD: Fatherhood has made me immensely more comfortable talking about poo. I wonder if it’s not that society deems it inappropriate, but rather, it is the society you keep that determines what you talk about. With fellow parents, I feel like there’s always a chance we’ll talk about poop, because it’s what our kids make the most, after noise and demands for YouTube videos of kinder eggs. Before fatherhood, how close I was to someone dictated whether scatological conversations were appropriate; the closer you were to my soul, the more likely you were to hear tales of my number twos. It’s only among new friends or strangers I don’t or wouldn’t discuss this… probably…
HG: Keep pooing, people!
NB: If Anonymous Voice would like to identify him or herself, please do.
Scott Manley Hadley is not fine and blogs at TriumphoftheNow.com