Frankenpoetics with MayaStein: Ugly Verse as Wunderkammer (A Classroom Visit) by Maya Jewell Zeller

This is about juxtaposition. Juxtaposition is like when two people care about each other but it doesn’t work out. It’s about when a cacophonous word comes up against another word. An apology to your shadow self. It’s about resistance art.


First, create materials. Use your list of ugly words (nouns, adjectives, verbs) you brought to class to make similes and a verb phrase:


- like a [concrete ugly noun] of [ugly adjective + abstract ugly noun]

- like [“a” or “the”] _________ [“in a” or “of a”] _____________ [one concrete noun, one abstract]

- [verb] a(n) [ugly noun]


- Now, describe something you wish you hadn’t done.


- Describe something you will do to make up for it.


Take all these materials, plus your mess from yesterday (any leftover ugly verbs, a line from Public Domain Review, a picture of something ugly on campus, and notes on something ugly happening in America).


Put all the random things together in a poem, introducing each with one of these refrains:

              - “I apologize for . . .”


              - “My shadow is sorry . . .”


              - “Shadow, I am sorry . . .”


Include (in any order) the two similes, plus as many of the other items from your initial homework list as possible . . . feel free to include random details from the photos . . .


Then write:

              - In penance, I will . . . [ verb ] a(n) [ugly noun]

              I will. . . [-something you will do to make up for it (describe)]


Title your poem:

              I APOLOGIZE FOR [the terrible thing you did]

              & include a dedication if this is for a certain person . . . or dedicate to your shadow!


You are a beautiful cabinet of curious things, slammed against one another. It’s okay. Carl Jung calls this your shadow. Facing it is the best way to become a writer.


Maya Jewell Zeller is the author of the interdisciplinary collaboration (with visual artist Carrie DeBacker) Alchemy for Cells & Other Beasts, the poetry collection Rust Fish, and the chapbook Yesterday, the Bees. She lives in the Inland Northwest with her spouse and two children, and teaches for Central Washington University.