Edgar Poe talked of two kinds of writing:

One discloses what we ourselves had thought before.

The other seems to us wholly original.

Either one gains our approval, though in the case of the former, we may remark to ourselves, “how could it be that no one has observed this before?”

So it is with this lovely line by Natalie Scenters-Zapico:

apartments that feel like they are by the sea, but out the window there is only freeway

One could listen to this line all day, and one can see all sorts of things in it (man vs. nature, etc) as one listens to it.

Andrew Kozma’s line is more complex because it does not have the easily recognizable, profound clarity of his opponent’s line:

what lies we tell. I love the living, and you, the dead.

This line has several parts: We have “lies” between two people, separated by love of the “living” and love of the “dead.” There is a delicious ambiguity which intoxicates us—due to a misty evocation of that border line between life and death, and the love which can attend on both.

The implication is that these are powerful lies (“what lies we tell”) and the stark contrast maintains its delightful ambiguity in the context of these two must be lovers.

Is the poet boasting that he loves the “living,” whereas his poor, sorry lover merely loves the “dead?”  This is one possible reading, and if this was all the line was saying, it would be weak.  But the ghosts of the “dead” will not be turned away from this line, and its mysteries, and this doubt makes the line very powerful.

Poor poetry must use doubts to be strong.

Be strong, Andrew.

You might still win this thing.





  1. maryangeladouglas said,

    April 2, 2016 at 1:56 pm

    They are both beautiful lines and I find it beautiful to think of those lines together though in their separate music residing. Could you say the source of the concept from Poe about the two kinds of poetry we like please? It is a wonderful distinction. And happy to see Poe back again.

  2. Surazeus said,

    April 2, 2016 at 2:47 pm

    The apartment line is more evocative, stimulating endless emotional visions and revealing a nostalgic contemplative personality.

    The living and dead line reveals a speaker who seems arrogant and thinks they are superior to the one they lie to, or they are feeling very insecure, and despair because they are being lied to.

    • maryangeladouglas said,

      April 2, 2016 at 2:55 pm

      Your comment is so interesting and enjoyable because it makes a theatre play of each line and spins out the one thread, or the two threads very convincingly. I am also partial to the apartment line as I have in fact lived near a very busy highway without being able to see the highway and it is so refreshing to think of it that way. I wish I had read that line when I lived there.

      • maryangeladouglas said,

        April 2, 2016 at 2:57 pm

        I also agree with Surazeus in regards to the other line though I do admire its depth, because on reading it I immediately thought of dead poets so called and dead loved ones and I thought how can it be wrong to think of the dead; it would be wrong to forget them.

        • maryangeladouglas said,

          April 2, 2016 at 3:04 pm

          The reason I think the line about the living and the dead has depth is because a lot of times in arguments people make distinctions between themselves in trivial ways because when you’re mad and you keep opening your mouth you tend to say more and more stupid things. (haha. I know a lot about this subject having said many stupid things out of anger). In this ‘argument’ though the distinction made is between regard for the living vs. the dead which is at least an unusual argument between two people (though not one I would like to be part of).

          • maryangeladouglas said,

            April 2, 2016 at 4:14 pm

            probably in reality I’ve thought more stupid things than said them but anger still has the same moronic effect whether what you say is thought of spoken out loud.

    • maryangeladouglas said,

      April 2, 2016 at 3:01 pm

      You certainly do research thoroughly to find that poem in google books. I like her line in the poem also, “the river is only blue on the map”. And she does have an enviable name for a poet. A poem all on its own even.

  3. thomasbrady said,

    April 2, 2016 at 6:00 pm

    Poe does make this distinction—I know I’m not dreaming, because I’ve entertained it while immersed in his works more than once—in one of his more obscure reviews of a minor writer; it will take a little searching to find it, Mary….

  4. maryangeladouglas said,

    April 2, 2016 at 6:16 pm

    Please take your time Tom. It’s fun to imagine that you actually had a dream where you and Poe were talking about poetry late into the afternoon.

  5. noochinator said,

    April 2, 2016 at 10:58 pm


    O Eternal Worrier, you strive to lick
    your prints from every surface. O Six-Legged God,
    O Tiny Resurrectionist, if I begged
    you to stop, would you stop, would you nod

    your clockwork head, would you promise to rot
    in the corner after I’ve squashed you, silent
    and uneager to raise your children from the dead?
    Perhaps you aren’t to blame, O Careless Parent.

    You spread your seed only where it takes,
    and I left the dishes uncleansed, the fruit
    clogging the trash with its seductive scent.
    Dogged Companion, you wear your dark suit

    with pride, eager to mourn whatever dies.
    I’m not your friend! You’re not mine! What lies
    we tell. I love the living, and you, the dead.
    And here we are again, breaking bread.

    Andrew Kozma

  6. maryangeladouglas said,

    April 2, 2016 at 11:11 pm

    Oh good Lord.

    • maryangeladouglas said,

      April 2, 2016 at 11:19 pm

      Somebody swat the poem, please. Not the poet though.

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