IS RISK-TAKING ADVISABLE IN WRITNG POETRY? ALWAYS. by Robert Nazarene from issue 300.2

I am especially pleased to appear again in America’s oldest literary review. With respect to my poem, “A Day in the Life”, I want to express my view that poetry which does not take risks is of insignificant value. Having served as an editor and publisher for a decade, I came to believe a distinctive voice is the most prized attribute of any poet. Witness the likes of cummings, Berryman, Plath, Wier and Eliot–just to mention a few. No cookie cutter poems here.

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I feel that all too often poets tend to hold their work at some distance from themselves. And mindless abstraction in poetry is poetry’s greatest enemy. (You know who you are.) As human beings, it is my firm belief we are connected not so much by our strengths, but rather, by our woundedness. (Here my spell-checker tells me I may be guilty of yet another neologism.) I believe as well that there are only two purposes of poetry: to disturb and to console. And, on rare occasions, to achieve both. I am always impressed by the quality of work found in North American Review.

A Day in the Life

Last whenever I suffered a major stroke
it’s caused me to gain 15/1000ths
of a second on my 440-relay time
the druggist at Sam’s Club asked
if I had any questions? yes would it hurt
to give half to my dog for her high
blood pressure she loves anything
with speed in it in the checkout line
my ATM card was approved
for the amount of purchase that’s
a first and the receipt checker
at the door made me turn my jacket
pockets inside out something about
cans of chick peas disappearing
from the store and after 26 years
of continuous sobritety I got kicked
out of AA. they said they were
more after “fresh” meat and that
last whenever I got locked up
in the nuthouse faster than
you can say Jackie Robinson
and also people with bipolar
disorder aren’t worth a fast fucking
glance in the rearview mirror.


ROBERT NAZARENE founded MARGIE / THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF POETRY and INTUIT HOUSE POETRY SERIES where he was the recipient of a publishers’ National Book Critics Award in poetry.  His first book of poems is CHURCH (2006).  A second volume of poetry, Puzzle Factory, is new in 2015.  His work has appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, Crazyhorse The Iowa Review, The Journal of the American Medical Association, North American Review, The Oxford American, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, Quarterly West, Salmagundi. Stand and elsewhere.  He was educated at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University.

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