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NaPoWriMo Poetry Prompt 15: The Fine Line Between

Sarah and Jeff Boyle

Difficulty Level 1/5

You know how love poems are kind of, well, universally lame? Like, you’ve read one and you’ve read them all. Yeah, yeah, her eyes are like diamonds, her lips are like roses, his pecs are as solid as boulders. We know. Today, we’re banishing those blandishments in favor of love’s opposite: hate.

Hate is so much more electric than love—at least when it comes to poems. We don’t know why it’s true, but it is. Every single time we ask writers to compose love poems, they are boring and stereotypical. But every time we ask writers to make a hate poem, those poems are alive and specific and extraordinary. Don’t believe me? Read this:

Hate Poem
by Julie Sheehan

I hate you truly. Truly I do.
Everything about me hates everything about you.
The flick of my wrist hates you.
The way I hold my pencil hates you.
The sound made by my tiniest bones were they trapped 
     in the jaws of a moray eel hates you.
Each corpuscle singing in its capillary hates you.

Look out! Fore! I hate you.

The blue-green jewel of sock lint I’m digging
     from under my third toenail, left foot, hates you.
The history of this keychain hates you.
My sigh in the background as you explain relational databases
     hates you.
The goldfish of my genius hates you.
My aorta hates you. Also my ancestors.

A closed window is both a closed window and an obvious
     symbol of how I hate you.

My voice curt as a hairshirt: hate.
My hesitation when you invite me for a drive: hate.
My pleasant “good morning”: hate.
You know how when I’m sleepy I nuzzle my head
     under your arm? Hate.
The whites of my target-eyes articulate hate. My wit
     practices it.
My breasts relaxing in their holster from morning
     to night hate you.
Layers of hate, a parfait.
Hours after our latest row, brandishing the sharp glee of hate,
I dissect you cell by cell, so that I might hate each one
     individually and at leisure.
My lungs, duplicitous twins, expand with the utter validity
     of my hate, which can never have enough of you,
Breathlessly, like two idealists in a broken submarine.

("Hate Poem" originally appeared in Pleides and was later anthologized in the Best American Poetry 2005. It is reprinted here by permission of the author.)

Julie Sheehan’s genius here is that this is, of course, a hate poem and a love poem. She hates the object of her love; she loves the object of her hate. Look more closely at the poem and you can see how she does it: she lists detailed and idiosyncratic parts of herself that do the hating (“the goldfish of my genius”). Then she lists moments in her day when she is seething with hatred ("You know how when I'm sleeping I nuzzle my head under your arm?"). She caps the poem off with that killer metaphor—literally, the metaphor is killing her, as she suffocates in a broken submarine, all while believing it’s going to come out OK.

Now it's your turn: Who do you hate? Or what do you hate? Tell us all the different parts of you that hate them/it. Tell us all the specific things about the person/thing that you hate. However you choose to enumerate your hate, make sure you are undeniably you in doing so. Then send your poems to us at flashbangwriting@gmail.com. 


Have you registered for the Poem-A-Thon yet? Sign up to write poems and raise money for the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council today! We just ordered some pretty sweet one-inch buttons that are yours for free if you play along with us. And don't forget to send us your poems for publication on this here blog: flashbangwriting@gmail.com.