Self-Portrait as Kurt Cobain in Drag

By Elizabeth Knapp

In this self-portrait, Cobain is the personification of the speaker’s rage. His dressing in drag represents the gender fluidity the speaker feels 90% of the time, although this may be the result of exposure to certain polyurethane products, particularly the foam in the sofas of a certain Swedish furniture manufacturer. Who wants to read a poem that explains itself? I do, I do!

So in this self-portrait, the speaker as Cobain in drag is drop-dead fucking gorgeous, with her sky-eyed junkie stare and her Christ bod fresh from the cross. As a woman, she can be a man becoming a woman becoming a poet becoming a god. She can feed on herself — a loaf of bread or a single glistening fish — her plate empty as the star she rode in on.

Finally, consider the relationship between Cobain’s message and the speaker’s own. Is this someone you’d want instructing your children, nihilism sprayed on the classroom walls and pronouns slipped on like condoms? Now diagram this sentence: I want to be raped by the world.

Misunderstood poet-god strung out in petticoats, isn’t this what you asked for, a stage to playact your fantasies of grandeur and oblivion and an audience who’s paid to care?

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About Elizabeth Knapp

Elizabeth Knapp is the author of The Spite House (C&R Press), winner of the 2010 De Novo Prize for Poetry. Recipient of the 2007 Discovered Voices Award from Iron Horse Literary Review, she has published poems in Best New Poets 2007, The Massachusetts Review, Mid-American Review, Barrow Street, and many other journals. She holds an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars and a PhD from Western Michigan University. She is currently Associate Professor of English at Hood College in Frederick, Maryland.

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