The Symbolic Sea

In an interview, Brett Fletcher Lauer shares how he came to title “Seaside Suicide,” one of the poems in his debut collection, A Hotel in Belgium:

“Seaside Suicide” takes its title from an unrecorded song by the teenage Kurt Cobain, as reported in the documentary Kurt & Courtney. And I liked the phrase, partly for its sonic appeal, but also because the phrase combines a sense of tranquility and tragedy. There might also be a moment of minor hubris in my pretending to retrieve the phrase from being an obscure footnote on Nirvana messages boards—that the lost song was the equivalent of a lost or burnt manuscript, or really, more like a crumpled up post-it note.

Of course, I’m also allowing myself that pathetic fallacy and identification with the poetic image of the sea. The sea and the idea of the sea never fail to draw me in with a sense of meditative awe, any bodies of water really, which accounts for many of the narrators in the book being placed at the edge of the sea. And I think before I talk too much about suicide as an idea, or metaphor, it would be irresponsible to not acknowledge the seriousness of people struggling with suicidal thoughts and to note a resource for assistance.

Obviously, suicide is the ultimate, determined, and irretrievable action to feeling captive to the earth, or feeling, or disorder. I do appreciate your phrase “spiritual suicide,” which I think helps differentiate between a purely Romantic notion of killing oneself as in The Sorrows of Young Werther, another big influence, and what I see as a more existential crisis or a death on the inside.