Getty Images
Getty Images

BooksAugust 27, 2021

The Friday Poem: Good Writing, by Caroline Shepherd

Getty Images
Getty Images

A new poem by Wellington-based poet Caroline Shepherd.

Good Writing

The book I’m reading won’t leave me alone

As in I’m in class, the bus, hot water, and it’s just on my mind

how good it is, how it already said everything worth it

Everyone should pack up and go home, we’re fucked, this book did it all


Like, what is good writing?

I think, sat on the wrong bus without knowing it,

How do you do it and how can you explain it

Is it like something that blows through you, body one welcome window

Or meaner, chews you up, firm and all teeth

Maybe it’s just the ghost haunting you at every party,

Or after all that, it could just be a decent few lines you circle like drain water


I think about Louise Glück and her phone ringing in the middle of the night

Or Margaret Atwood longing to be in an elevator, stuck between floors,

Ada Limón in yellow Kentucky, blue Iowa, Marie Howe and her blowing hair, chapped lips,

And all that means nothing to no one except me, but I could recite those lines backward

Until my hair stands white and I retire to Auckland to vote ACT and complain

about waitresses and untidy verges, and even then, when I’m awful

I’ll still be able to tell you the lines that turned me inside out and through


Maybe that’s it, maybe good writing is the stuff you want to tell everyone about

loudspeaker, billboards, sky writing,

listen to this, you won’t believe it


Or maybe it’s the stuff you want no one else to ever read

Unbearable, to be seized by the shoulders and seen through,

you got me. don’t tell anyone


It’s probably both and also neither.

I think, having gotten off the bus and called an Uber, because fuck it

It’s probably just the thing you read, and then over again, just to be sure. You didn’t dream it.

Gravity is good but that was better. That’s what’s been keeping you here.


The Friday Poem is edited by Chris Tse. Submissions are currently closed and will open again later this year.

Keep going!