(SPAM Cuts) 'Composting Toilet' by imperialwizard555
Richard Capener motions to a subreddit’s latrine poiesis in this SPAM Cut of imperialwizard555’s ‘Composting Toilet’.
It isn’t critical showboating to say ‘Composting Toilet’ is a shit poem. I found it on r/ShittyPoetry. The subreddit was set up ‘to fully express the shit that is in your heart. It is encouraged to bring out your inner pretentiousness and tell the poster how much you enjoyed his work’.
Before readers even reach ‘Composting Toilet’, it’s framed as anti-literary. The coding around this text is brazenly problematic: the assumption poetry is pretentious; that users are male, that this is ‘his work’; and hints of colonialism embedded in usernames. Here is a space that assumes literature isn’t patriarchal or nationalistic, and then presents those attributes as a disruption, a critique, of literature.
Posted by imperialwizard555 on 1st March 2021, the poem itself was one of the few rhymed formal verses in the site’s 12 hour period. As such, readers must forgive me for possibly misrepresenting the site. One should remember what a general public views as ‘shit poetry’ might not be the opinion of creative writing pedagogy. My background is the latter. Of course I’m going to choose clunky rhyming quatrains:
My wife is forcing a composting toilet you see I wish she had the foresight, I wish she had the vision To see that she has bought me to my knee To see this has caused our greatest collision
The papoose board she threatened seems like a milestone For the malice in her heart to be so strong Will I be drugged and forced to defecate alone It all just seems so wrong
The narrator acts like it’s obvious why a woman would force such a thing on a husband (remember, the poem is ‘his work’); this is revealed by the lack of the first line’s comma before ‘…you see’, as if readers recognise the reason as self-evident. The second line is a tautology before the first stanza concludes by comparing the narrator’s marital disputes, by association at least, with shit hitting a basin.
The second stanza, in a generous reading, can be seen as introducing surreal humour, yet it ends in the narrator’s childlike fear of defecating alone. It is this which reveals something that not only destructs the poem, but the digital space it’s presented within.
This fear reveals the cause of the narrator’s marital dispute: he’s over-dependent. The fear of shitting alone is one of parental abandonment. The narrator wants his wife to wipe his arse for him. This emasculation, by the standards of macholinity at least, brings the smug, juvenile humour of the poet –– and by extension the whole subreddit –– into question. It subverts the site’s theme, shit, by turning it into compost, out of which a radical confrontation with its social self can grow.
Text: Richard Capener
Illustration: Alice Hill-Woods