Say it clearly and you make it beautiful, no matter what.

Bruce Weigl, The Impossible

Impossible is a phenomenal exploration of vulnerability, violation, and the sacred. Simply put, it is a beautiful poem. A beautiful poem about childhood sexual abuse.

The language is crude, stark, and lovely. Bruce Weigl understands sound, structure, line breaks … okay, you get the point. This is not what makes Impossible beautiful.

Beautiful writing depends upon truth. Truth is sacred — worth regarding with perpetual, ceaseless awe. Truth requires more than syntax, style, or voice. A lot more.

Truth and beauty are not equivalent, but they are the same.

This much I know:

It takes courage to rip open your chest cavity and reach in. It takes audacity to tear out your heart. And finally, it takes vulnerable strength to hold it – to hold it in humble spaces.

Pleasurable language and attention to craft are not enough.


I’m not a big believer in writer’s block. Most of my motivation issues are fueled by reviser’s block.

When running, I seem to do much better after a warm up and some stretching. I write like I run. Sometimes the warm up is a list of observations. Sometimes I try to answer an unanswerable question.  Sometimes I write mediocre pantoums before switching to free verse.

Here’s one of my favorite warm up prompts :

  1. Create a stockpile of words. Cull the good stuff from magazines, the newspaper, or any other print media. I cut out words and throw them in an old pencil tin. My public libraries sells old magazines for 25 cents.
  2. Invade your stockpile of words. Start by selecting three words at random.
  3. Toss the words over your page. Paste them where they land.
  4. Create a poem by writing around your words.

How do you prepare for writing and revising?

He should have known. Instinct and reflex
Earned twenty five years without an accident.

His gin and Lipton reeks of last night’s
Swing shift. The chill of morning
Cloaks the back porch where he sits
Marred by the memory

Of pink slips bright against
Blue-stained coveralls.

Another sip and a body falls
From the gutter, wings folded

Into itself. There is no flight,
Just a bird
Nestled by stick fingers.

One of the most common gripes about poetry is that it’s an elevated art form. In other words, it’s for university elitists and intellectual snobs. Poetry can definitely be “high art” but it can also be (more) accessible than the novel you bought at the drug store. Contemporary poetry has room for everyone.

Recently, I was introduced to Jennifer Knox. Check out her Hot Ass Poem.

Hot Ass Poem
Jennifer Knox

Hey check out the ass on that guy he’s got a really hot ass I’d like to see his ass naked with his hot naked ass Hey check out her hot ass that chick’s got a hot ass she’s a red hot ass chick I want to touch it Hey check out the ass on that old man that’s one hot old man ass look at his ass his ass his old man ass Hey check out that dog’s ass wow that dog’s ass is hot that dog’s got a hot dog ass I want to squeeze that dog’s hot dog ass like a ball but a hot ball a hot ass ball Hey check out the ass on that bird how’s a bird get a hot ass like that that’s one hot ass bird ass I want to put that bird’s hot ass in my mouth and swish it around and around and around Hey check out the ass on that bike damn that bike’s ass is h—o—t you ever see a bike with an ass that hot I want to put my hot ass on that hike’s hot ass and make a double hot ass bike ass Hey check out that building it’s got a  really really hot ass and the doorman and the ladies in the information booth and the guy in the elevator got themselves a buttload of hot ass I want to wrap my arms around the whole damn hot ass building and squeeze myself right through its hot ass and out the other side I warn to get me a hot ass piece of all eighty-six floors of hot hot hot hot ass.

Buy Jennifer’s book here.

An old woman sits dead-eyed
near an upturned cardboard box,
rosary beads clicking through her fingers.
The cardboard covers the corpse
of an infant. There’s not enough fabric
to shroud the body.

On the streets of Port-au-Prince, lost
children tremble as if aftershocks originate
from their broken bodies. Men dig
through remnants of home
for fathers and daughters and strangers.
The crevices of their hands

crack like fault lines.

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