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The example for the following exercise is "No Sorry", by Catherine Bowman, from The Best American Poets of 1997, edited by James Tate (Scribner Poetry.)

This is the first draft of the exercise, described by the author, Abby Wender:

"Create two persona voices, disembodied. One is asking for something. The other persona answers, basically by just repeating the same answer (no) over and over again. In the face of this, the questioner turns on the heat, escalating the questions to a ridiculous level. Play with phrasing, letting the reader know who is speaking without using quotation marks. The tone is prosy, matter of fact. The mood deepens as the poem goes on. Bowman's poem is political and socially motivated. I've taken an emotional issue."

 


How Are You?
I'm fine.
Are you sad?
No, I'm fine.
Are you angry?
Look, I'm okay.
You sound like you're bottling it up again, whatever it is, you can tell me.
Now listen, I said I was fine, I'm fine.
You mean you think you're fine, but have you ever said something you didn't mean, and then it slips out in public like bastard, shit, fuck, cunt, you know?
I said "fuck" today, but it was in context.
You were angry? Did you feel on the verge of putting your fist through a window or propelling the little tulip plant on the coffee table into the wall?
Come on, I was miffed but not enough to kick the door, no.
But you've done that, so that you were almost sure you'd broken a toe? So you limped around hurting, pissed off at the whole cock sucking, ass-licking world, right? You've felt like it, right?
No. I'm fine, totally fine.
What about this afternoon? Did you chew the inside of your mouth and spit it out? Did you bark, did your teeth ache? Did you have thoughts of what you'd say when you got hold of the bastard, the incident maker? Are you roasting it over on the spit of your mind?
No, it was something to do with meddling.
Oh, a meddling "fuck you?"
Yes, now I'm fine.
Have you ever said you were fine when you really wanted to take a block of concrete and smash someone in the head, heave him off a porch and cut off his balls?
Well, I don't know about that, I'd certainly never do that.
Of course you'd never do that. Instead you wake up in the middle of the night and think about when to fling your insult into the mouth of the meddler, then under the bare soles of your feet, violets and snowdrops spring forth and the lavender blooms.
That's what fine feels like.

 


 


 

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