Friday, April 5, 2013

I Wish I'd Written This

The Mad Yak

By Gregory Corso (1930 - 2001)

I am watching them churn the last milk they'll ever get from me.
They are waiting for me to die;
They want to make buttons out of my bones.
Where are my sisters and brothers?
That tall monk there, loading my uncle, he has a new cap.
And that idiot student of his--
I never saw that muffler before.
Poor uncle, he lets them load him.
How sad he is, how tired!
I wonder what they'll do with his bones?
And that beautiful tail!
How many shoelaces will they make of that!

I think many poets are concerned about animal welfare, and from that point of view it might seem obvious why I'd wish to have written this. But look again — there is actually no suggestion that the mad yak and his relatives are ill-treated. What is described is normal domestic use of these animals, and the title implies that the yak is insane for questioning the norm. I'm not even absolutely certain that Corso really has an issue with it.

What he does is to anthropomorphise the yak very convincingly, so that I, as the reader, believe these are its real thoughts. It's a wonderful example of that advice always given to writers: 'show, don't tell'. The poem does not mention or describe any emotion, yet we know exactly what its narrator the yak is feeling at any point.  (Which makes me think Corso probably does have reservations about the way human beings utilise domestic animals.) I'd like to have such masterly ability to influence my readers! In fact I'd like to be able to write a political poem that was something more than a rant. I find that so difficult that I've pretty much given up trying to write them.

Speaking of political poems, one might also choose to see the exploitation of the yak as a metaphor for the exploitation of people by the State and/or industry. I'm not at all sure Corso didn't intend that too.

Corso was the youngest of the 'beat poets' which also included Ginsberg, Kerouac, et al. I found the Wikipedia article at the link on his name (above) enthralling, and much more informative than I have room for here.

You will find more of his poems at Poem Hunter and numerous books at his Amazon page.

Poems and photos used in ‘I Wish I’d Written This’ remain the property of the copyright holders (usually their authors).


  1. I'm not usually compelled to write from the perspective of an animal, but this smart piece makes me want to do just that. Thanks for sharing and prompting me to work in a new direction, Rosemary.

  2. A Yak stream of consciousness! Who would have guessed it could be done so well? Probably not the Yak.

  3. This is a way cool poem, and anthropormorphising would actually be a good prompt. I love reading the yak's thoughts - poignant.

  4. I am not so keen on anthropomorphism myself. I sometimes write about my cats as if they were people, only to reveal the truth at the end - but that's a different thing. But Corso does it so very well in this poem that I like it anyway.

  5. This was interesting, Rosemary. I was not familiar with Corso. And his poem took definitely was written using a different kind of approach.

  6. Very interesting analysis. Thanks for this stimulating piece.


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