A Defense of Foul-Mouthed Poetry

Ariana Reines Lit Literature Poetry

It’s hard to believe that the lines above could be considered poetry. But they are. Wether or not you like this type of poetry is a different matter, but it is a matter of taste, not of classification.

Personally, I welcome foul-mouthed poetry. I don’t seek it nor do I write it, but I welcome its existence. Here’s why:

1. It’s actually about You: When art, photography, literature makes us uncomfortable, various emotions lie behind such discomfort.  We might feel exposed, vulnerable, guilty or even repulsed. What’s important though, is that we are feeling something strong. It’s very soothing to walk the European Impressionism wing at The Met. Less so to catch an exhibit of war photography. So, if the Ariana Reines poem above makes you feel ill at ease, it’s worth your while to ask why.

2. It’s actually about Language: Poetry is built on words, duh. But not all words are built equal. Some words float, others sink, and a select few bring you down with them. Dirty words make you feel dirty. It’s important that they are able to do that; they manifest the power of language. I find cursing to be a period-appropriate way of expressing aggression and encourage it. I like to say “fuck” because I find that it keeps me from saying things that are worse. Thus, I am thankful to the word “fuck.” Thank you, “fuck.”

3. It’s actually about Now: For a young woman to write, publish and have an audience for poems like the one above is an amazing display of political currency. There are means, at least in some countries, with which to be a published, foul-mouthed poet now-a-days. For me, this is a good thing. The poem above is symbolic of personal possibility and societal permissiveness. It also implies the open rejection it no doubt elicits from many. The discussions that result from this rejection are good things, too.


Read New York City, 2014

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