The Poetry Question

Discovering the Relevance of Words

Save Your Quarters and Dollars.

Suicide’s Note

The calm,
Cool face of the river
Asked me for a kiss.

–Langston Hughes

A poem simply needs to say enough to leave the reader thinking. Langston Hughes’ poem “Suicide’s Note,” has long since been my favorite poem. It’s subtle beauty allows the reader to grasp the meaning of the piece, and yet still ponder why such a dark experience can feel so peaceful.

When my students work through their poetry unit, I try to remind them that a poem doesn’t need to say more than what they mean. It’s so easy for poets – especially high school poets – to feel as if they need to include these obtuse metaphors, when in reality, the most honest, simply worded pieces, are the most engaging.

My poetry professor always used to tell us to use nickel and dime words, instead of quarter and dollar words. No one wants to use a dictionary to read through a poem. Keep them clean, and the reader will come back for more.

Do you have a favorite simple poem?

About Christopher Margolin

Chris Margolin spent more than a decade in Education as a high school English teacher, and is now an Instructional Coach for the Longview School District. He is also the founder of The Poetry Question, an online journal which focuses on reviews of small press poetry publications, and runs a regular series called "The Power of Poetry," where notable poets share their personal stories of how poetry has affected their lives. Margolin resides in Vancouver, Washington with his wife, and daughter.

One comment on “Save Your Quarters and Dollars.

  1. T.a. Allan
    May 6, 2013

    i do have a favorite simple poem, by anthony francis betchik:

    swept up in a hangover,
    like the dust in the corner of the room,
    i lie in her bed.

    i’ve seen this in the man’s own handwriting in various forms. play with the commas, one, two or none changes the dust reference rather playfully.

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