Help me, please

Okay, so first of all I apologize for being so solipsistic, but I am going to use this blog post as a way to directly ask for help on a poem that I’m completely stuck on when it comes to revisions. The poem is Post-Transplant, which I submitted for workshop a few weeks ago. I know you’ve already spent time with this poem and offered me a lot of awesome feedback, but I’m still stuck. I’m not happy with the poem the way it is, but I don’t know how to change it to make it work! There are a few things I’d really like to preserve: First, the original prompt was to write about something that was displaced or moved somewhere else with unexpected consequences. I’d really like that to come across in the poem. Second, I’m pretty set on the use of couplets here, particularly because I’m generally happy with the way the first couplet is functioning. But here’s where it gets tricky—the acrostic. The reason I’d like to try to make it work is that there’s something important to me about the word lymphoma being in the poem, without it really being in the poem. Right now, though, I feel like the acrostic just looks like a big hunk of words with forced line breaks in the middle of a bunch of couplets. Also, I’m worried the acrostic is too showy or tricky, like it might cheapen the poem. I honestly don’t know what to do with it. I’m thinking maybe I’ll allow the acrostic to be there, but break it into couplets and mess around a lot with the language and line breaks of that stanza (which will then become six couplets—another problem, what do I do with the last letter?!?!). If I do this, the acrostic will become basically unrecognizable to the reader, but something about its presence, even though unrecognizable, is comforting to me I guess… I think… I don’t know. I need help. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

Using French as an Anglophone

Some of the poems we read in Lyric Postmodernisms used languages other than English; we’ve encountered other languages in workshop; and the use of multiple languages in poetry is really a pretty common practice, with a lot of different intents and reasons behind it. I am not a bilingual or multilingual person, so it is very easy for me to express myself only in English, as those are the only words I’ve ever needed to use to express myself, with the exception of my French studies. As a French major, I’ve had to struggle through strict “French only” teachers and professors at several levels, and through this struggling, I’ve developed a love for the language and the concept of language in general. I’m obsessed with multilingualism and the way it can be used in poetry. However, I always hesitate to use French in my poems for a couple of reasons. One: I’m not a native French speaker, and the last thing I want to do is sound cheap or fake. French in my poem will never be authentic. Two: The French language is so often romanticized, and can become so cliché, particularly in poetry. Are these hesitations legitimate, or am I just projecting exaggerated insecurities onto poetry as a whole and limiting myself? Is this something, as a lover of language, an admirer and studier of the French language and French/ francophone culture, and someone who hopes to eventually become bilingual that I should say “screw it” and just try? I know this blog isn’t meant to be an advice column, but I’m curious to hear what others think about this. Ultimately, I know it’s a decision that I will make on my own for the sake of my own poetry.

Hate What You Write

Whether we know exactly what our poetic statements are right now, or we haven’t quite developed them yet, we all have things we don’t believe in as poets: things we hate, things we’ve sworn off, things we’ve told ourselves will never surface in our poetry. When you write your next poem, contradict yourself/ your ideas about what poetry is/should be, or more specifically, what your poetry is/ should be. Purposely write in something that you don’t like (whether it be a line, punctuation, formatting, an image, or even a whole poem). The catch: upon revision, don’t delete what you hate. Make it work within the poem. Surprise yourself. If the poem wants to get rid of whatever it is, transform the poem so it can stay.

Share your poem when you’re ready. Read it over and over again, even if you hate it. Read it because you hate it. Read it and revise it until you don’t hate it. Through this reading and revision, you hopefully will have spent a lot of time considering why you don’t believe in what you believe in, as well as thinking about how we can make things we hate work. Maybe we can even come to understand why several of the poets in Lyric Postmodernisms seemed to contradict themselves. Is there an underlying complexity that we can only discover through forcing ourselves to write a contradiction? Share what you find.

Art from Art

Recently, I was inspired by a song to write a poem. This is the first and only time I’ve ever felt compelled to write a poem based on a song, not the first time I’ve been inspired by music, but the first time I’ve been inspired to occupy the space of that song and create a poem that occupies that same space. I went to speak with Professor Lytton about how to “cite” or give credit to the song in my poem without just “stealing” (the song and the poem share the same title). He told me about a poet who often based poems on other works of art. Inspired by this, I wanted to see if I could do more. So I tried to write a poem occupying the same space as one of my favorite paintings. Normally, when I sit down to write a poem, I’ll have one image or topic in mind, and from there begin hours of painstakingly uninspired lines appearing slowly on the page. But when I sat down to write these two poems, based on other works of art, the whole process just felt quicker, smoother. I wonder if this is because, rather than creating a work of art from nothing, I am actually just converting art from one form to another. This is to say, translating the atmosphere of the song to the atmosphere of a poem, or transcribing the space of the painting to written words on the page. Of course it’s a little more complicated than this because the space this song or this painting creates for me will be inherently different than the space it creates for someone else (at least in some small way). But the point, I think, might be that it creates the space for me—these works of art provide an atmosphere that only needs to be worked into words. One could say that that is the nature of any poem, that the world around us is full of little “works of art” that provide atmospheres/ spaces for us to write in (a similar sentiment to Donald Revell’s statement that imagination hinders poem writing). What do you think? Maybe I’m just imagining an ease of writing when occupying the space of another medium of artwork, or maybe there is a certain easiness to it. Let me know if you’ve had a similar experience!

Nicky Beer’s “Post-Mortem”


To me, you have bequeathed
a half-dissolved
apple, a spider,
and three crescents
of your fingernails.

A large Y of black stitches
has split your trunk into thirds—
a child’s rendition
of a bird migrating
towards your feet.

The arc of the scar
on your right calf
reminds me of a hooked trout
I once saw leaping
from the surge of a stream,

a curve of light shaped
by the moment between life
and the infinite space
just above it.

Smoke-browned fish on a white plate,
dawn-grey body on a silver table—
we do not like to linger
on how the dead may still nourish us.

Later, I will tell your family
what no one ever knew,
but you may have suspected:

you had two exquisite,
plum-colored kidneys,
lustrous and faultless
as the surface of a yolk.

Nicky Beer


Before I took Intro to Creative Writing my first semester here at Geneseo, I had no opinion about poetry, except that it “wasn’t for me.” All of the poems I had been introduced to until that point were so flowery, so dolled up with poet-y language that, at the time, seemed out of date and out of touch with humanity in the now. “I guess I like Robert Frost,” I’d say when asked about poets and poetry (which is still true, I really do love Frost), mostly because I didn’t know what to say, and I’d read some Frost before. I’d never read any contemporary poetry—I’d never explored a poem beyond its rhythm and rhyme, its metaphors and similes. However, when introduced to Beer’s “Post-Mortem,” along with a lot of new perspective about what poetry could be, I realized maybe poetry was “for me,” after all. Maybe poetry is for all of us. The simplicity in Beer’s language, the domesticity and everyday-ness of the images—“a child’s rendition of a bird in flight,” “a hooked trout I once saw leaping from the surge of a stream,” “the surface of a yolk,”—grounded me, and helped me understand that poetry, I think, is something that is accessible to everyone. You don’t need to be a writer, a reader, someone who can profess about the significance of Keats’ Eremite (not a jab at Frost or Keats—I love that poem and that allusion) to access and even, dare I say, understand poetry. This isn’t to say this single poem made me love poetry. I don’t wholly love poetry. Sometimes I love poetry so much that I just stare at the page and cry. Sometimes I hate it so much that it actually makes me physically ill—nausea, dizziness, the works. But for so many reasons, this poem remains one of my absolute favorites. Has anyone else experienced a poem or a moment like this? I consider myself sort of a “late bloomer” when it comes to poetry, did anyone else have a similar delayed experience? Also, what do you think of “Post-Mortem”?