Ode to Obtuse Poetry


An ode to obtuse poems,
the magazines that publish them
and the poets who churn them out.

Fancy word cogs clogging stanzas,
making readers everywhere
react by nodding reverently or nodding off

or gnawing on the shirtsleeves
of cultural appropriation
(I just included that last bit
because it sounded important).

Some swear poetry should make us suffer,
squint our eyes like we’re driving in the desert
wearing junk store shades,

shudder with self-judgment,
sure we’re stupid,
missing something deep and insightful–

I’d prefer a vivid description
of actual bullshit in the streets
of Pamplona after the tourists
have collapsed in their hotel rooms,

heaps of it, cooled now, no longer
steaming but still soft to the touch, say,
of an old Spaniard’s cane engraved
with a word like bravura or victory,

something painful and real
that can’t be achieved without loss;
the very plain language obtuse poems
avoid at all costs.

12 thoughts on “Ode to Obtuse Poetry

  1. daniel says:

    I’m so with you all the way. I’ve always hated obtuse poems (and poets I guess). (pema chodrin suggests just saying “I don’t like it (or him or her” instead of getting so (damn) angry). I started with Bukowski and read so very many of his before I even began to read “regular poets” that I feel I cannot appreciate the obtuse, academic, higher level folks. Oh well.
    that’s why I like your poetry so much–it’s just there, direct.
    thanks for the poem and it’s sentiment.


  2. Krista Fretwell Roscoe says:

    I love this poem. And I love your description of actual bullshit still soft in the street. And I love Mary Oliver’s acute observations of the natural world more than most any other poetry. Oh to achieve such clarity and simplicity – what a gift! And poetry for the sake of obfuscation (which I think you refer to here) is just plain anti-poetic. But I also love the opaquely mysterious – perhaps seemingly obtuse – poems that hint at and tease out and outline our inarticulable depths. And I love a good Japanese haiku koan that invites me to sit quietly with what isn’t obvious until it becomes obvious. And (did I mention?), I love this poem. With or without the last two lines – but maybe what wants to happen there is you finish your thought about painful and real and loss (and beauty?) and leave off further commentary about obtuse poetry, which you’ve deftly deflated already. End with beauty.



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