When Sylvia Plath said . . .

A poem

Full title: When Sylvia Plath said “People or stars regard me sadly” I think she mostly meant “people”


Poetry’s not hard. All you have to do is,

instead of saying things like “I washed my clothes

at a motel laundromat in Orchard Park,

NY,” say “I ate gold in Milan.”

Tell it slant. You don’t have to use old-fashioned

phrases like “Write down Prince John a villain!”

Just imagine you’re at a seminar

with Prince John, making fun of fat people.

Show don’t tell. Saying “my feelings were hurt

when you winced at my Burger King jokes”

is very telling. Saying “You have great taste

in movies!” shows us more with fewer words.


Make it new. You learn from the old masters,

taking, say, Keats’s “I believe you had

liked me for my own sake” and updating it

as “Can I be on your panel at AWP?”