Poetry can be thought of as an act of persuasion: a poem attempts to bring about some kind of change in its reader, perhaps no more than a moment of clarity amidst the disorder of everyday life. And successful poems not only make use of the meanings and sounds of words, as well as the images those words conjure up, but may also take advantage of the arrangement of type on a page. Notice how this little poem by Mississippi poet Robert West makes the very best use of the empty space around it to help convey the nature of its subject.
Photo: Robert West photo by Richard Patteson
American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry
magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright © 2005 by Robert West. Reprinted from Best Company,
Blink Chapbooks, Chapel Hill, NC, 2005, with permission of the author. Introduction copyright © 2009 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited poetry manuscripts.