Swearing in Poems?

So, while working on my portfolio, I came across this sudden feeling that the specific poem that I was working on needed to have a curse in it! That’s never happened to me before! In the past, I’ve always been worried about curses in my own writing and I’ve been skeptical of it in other peoples’ work. I guess it’s because we are trained to write poems that are “poetic;” poems that “sound and look beautiful.” Curses, I suppose, can detract from this sense of beauty and “poeticism.” I used to feel as if curses took the reader out of a poem–a curse is just so loud even without italics, or bold, or an exclamation point. So my question to all of you is: what do you feel about curses in poems? Have any of you ever used curse words (and if none of you are super shy about it, could you quote the line(s) with the curse(s) in it)?

5 Replies to “Swearing in Poems?”

  1. I think curses are beautiful. Not everyone can be the Seinfeld or Fresh Prince of poetry. I believe that curses illustrate that raw emotion where there’s nothing else to say but “fuck.” And I also believe “fuck” is a beautiful word because it can be used in so many ways. It can be a verb, a noun, an adjective, an adverb, etc. I’ve been trying to clean my language, but sometimes the only word that can evoke an emotion is a curse word.

    “ayo my moms told me not to
    fucks wit you cuz you fucks with them.”
    -this is the line from one of my poems that uses a curse.

    1. I have the same feeling, too. It’s actually a beautiful word. I’ll use cusd words in my poems too. Thanks for that advice.?

  2. I think cursing has way too many assumptions attached to it. Sometimes you just have to get the intensity of the situation out, and sometimes this is best achieved through a well placed “fuck” or “damn.” Like with most language when writing poetry, it’s probably best to be aware of just what is at stake. For me, cursing seems to come out more when I write slam poetry, but it’s not particularly common even then, and often gets edited out. I’ll share a couple stanzas of one where it did actually make the cut.

    I’ll count the blue cars,
    I’ll etch a novel between the lines of time,
    I’ll draw melting clocks until my colored pencils wear to stubs.
    When everything is gone, I’ll scratch the hours into my skin until…

    I once knew a woman who choked on nothing.
    She couldn’t take the taste of nothing.
    Where she is now, I believe she’s breathing easy,
    that she’s laughing and smiling,
    even if I never saw what it looked like on her.

    Until I realized:
    Fuck this waiting!

    Sometimes I replace the above “fuck” with “screw” in the event that I feel as though I am in more polite company, but I think I still get the idea across: No good to wait forever, so curse while you can!

  3. It’s interesting because I always end up editing out curses in my poetry. For me, curses are very heat-of-the-moment and when I’m writing poetry, it usually happens all at once, I’ll get a whole poem done in about 5-10 minutes and then often times I’ll excitedly through in a curse because I get caught up in the emotion. However, upon reading it back to myself, I find that the curse takes me out of the poem and I get too focused on the “fuck” that it distracts me from the rest of the poem. Also, sometimes I feel like the cursing is a bit on the angsty/juvenile side…but maybe I just need to embrace that some more??

    here is a line from a poem I wrote where I kept the “fuck”:

    “i saw you screaming sideways down the sidewalk, too fast for a fuck, too gone to be found”

  4. I once watched a video about how curse words are stored in a different (more emotionally-charged) part of the brain than other words. I’m not sure how accurate this is, but I like to think that it’s true and that that’s the reason people can get so off-put and taken out of the moment. I try to see all words as being equal in value and in their ability to be striking when used in certain ways. I remember the first time I read something and every “fuck” no longer stood out to me. It concerned me at first (I was 14 and innocent), but I realized that paying that much attention to curse words simply because they’ve been ingrained in our heads as ‘not appropriate’ is the same thing as children not being able to see the word “butt” without laughing.

    I use curse words a lot, but definitely more in slam poetry (which tends to be angrier) than page poetry. Pam, you’re so considerate — my poetry is too selfish to alter it for my audience. If there are children around, I’ll just choose a poem that doesn’t have profanity.

    Ways that I have used “curse” words:
    “ashing in the chamber/pot like you didn’t give a fuck that the Marlboro/man was murdering you”
    “let the white man fuck you”
    “this shit’s real”
    “there is no word for vagina that sounds nearly as sexy, streamlined, and powerful as cock”

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