I’m Wearing White

Well, not really.  It’s just one of those rules that should be broken.  To be honest, I don’t wear white that often, mostly because I’m one of those people who seems to be attracted to pen ink and spaghetti sauce whenever I am wearing white.

The true reason for this post?  I just got done reading a small column in the newest issue of Poets & Writers.  In this column, the editors of Tin House (which is celebrating its 10th anniversary), talk the submission process to their journal.  The column is written in a quick question and answer fashion, with the last question being “What do you not want in a submission?”   The editors’ answer:

This is not particular to our submitters, but here’s the thing: For such a small insect, cicadas sure show up a lot in poetry and fiction.  It sounds silly to take issues with it, but the point is that it smacks of device, which in turn interrupts the dream.  Watch out for stuff like that.

I had to laugh at this response.  A few years ago, a poet I was working with told me to watch those cicadas!  Still, I have to admit these little creatures constantly sneak into my poems.  One of my favorite poems (and it has been published) uses the image of cicada shells cracking underneath a child’s feet.

So here is a writing prompt for the day. Use this title:  Why I Must Have (insert an image that may be considered overused) in My Poems.  What do you come up with?  Just like wearing white after Labor Day, are there rules to be broken in poetry?


  1. I read that too, and immediately felt defensive — “I’ve only used the word “cicada” once, in one poem, and I think it’s essential!” — and then felt driven to look it up on wiki, b/c I don’t think they’re THAT small, A couple fun facts: “some tropical species can reach 15 cm (6 in)” and “Also, commonly overlooked, cicadas have 3 small eyes located on the top of the head between the two large eyes that match the color of the large eyes, giving them a total of five eyes.”

    If I write a poem riffing off the latter bit, I’ll be sure not to send it to Tin House.

  2. Karen Weyant Said:

    If we think about it, some of the best poems out there do “things” they are not supposed to do! It’s taking some sort of chance, I guess.

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