Some questions are never answered. In 1977, John Ashbery posed such a question, one that has resounded through the years with no clear end in sight. This poet had a possible “answer,” and he expressed it in (what else?) a poem. Now, another poet finds a new shade of possibility in the question, uncovering a perspective that is thoroughly relevant and postmodern. The world has changed, and as it changes, the rate of change seems to become more exponential in nature. What is recycled, what is lost, in the span of time that falls between 1977 and today? Perhaps poetry lies somewhere among our fabrications of the past, our current disillusions. There are two questions here. What is life? McKenzie, one of our summer camp writers, gives us a possible definition, revealing her astounding maturity and insight.

The Definition of Poetry

Inspired by John Ashbery’s “What Is Poetry”

Urban decay and
depressive Romanticism,
prolific musical energy
of once derelict dive bar jukeboxes.

Garishly lighted all-night convenience stores
coated in the DayGlo imprint
of Egyptian hip-hop
and nostalgia-filled salad days.

Retro sets spotlight a queen who is dead
from the raves of yesteryear
and guilty pleasures pop
under an oversized disco ball.

A preponderance of prefab
made up for with a loud voice.

McKenzie, twelfth grade, Badgerdog Creative Writing Summer Camp at Hope Presbyterian Church


Summer Nights

This week’s featured writer brings us an inspiring poem both rich and spare in its language and execution. As you move through the stanzas, notice how light and dark, day and night dissolve, as you’re simultaneously invited to fly from earth to sky and back again. Congratulations to Shivani on a delicate and wondrous poem perfect for a summer evening.

Dark to Light

lost in the suffocating darkness
lost in thought

you see black
you see white
you see beautiful designs

black as dark as coal
silver and gold
white as bright as the sun


large black
large black sky
large black painting

at night

the sky is dark
children get scared
because all they
see is black

at night when we
look up we
see nothing
we see stars

white sparkling
wonders light
the soulless sky

we see the stars
we see hope

hope fills the sky
when we look
when we look
we see pictures

they line up to
in the night sky
created by twinkling

under the bright
night sky we
see the choking

Shivani, ninth grade, Badgerdog Creative Writing Summer Camp

To Myself as a Child


Dear child who may or might have been,
Who is and is not me,
I look back and I think that those,
Your years,
Must have been so lonely and so alone,
Even when you thought you understood all,
Defined all.
You were the child who was often message-boy,
Rarely confidante,
The only one who could not jump rope,
Who failed to conquer the monkey bars,
And lived with friendships of geography
While you tried so hard not to trip over Barbie dolls
Lying shamelessly naked on the rug.
And yet you thought you were queen and prophet,
You stood invincible,
You had the audacity to jest at scars
Even while you idolized that one kid who spent
___all of second grade in graffitied casts.
I look back at the echoes of your illegible hand
Filling up half-used diaries,
And I do not know if I should praise you
___or bury you.

Sarah, high school, north summer camp