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November 2014

Taylor Mali's poem, "Totally like whatever, you know?," from What Learning Leaves is funny and it's true and it works.

The poem begins:

In case you hadn’t noticed,
it has somehow become uncool
to sound like you know what you’re talking about?
Or believe strongly in what you’re saying?
Invisible question marks and parenthetical (you know?)’s
have been attaching themselves to the ends of our sentences?
Even when those sentences aren’t, like, questions? You know?
It's about language. It's about slang. It is about lazy language.

For this month's prompt, we asked poets to select a word or phrase that would be considered slang as a title and starting place. the poem could be about the slang itself, but it could be about language or go off some other direction.

Need some inspiration? Try the

I also like this typographic video that I discovered on Taylor Mali's website that visualizes his poem.

For more on this prompt and others, visit the Poets Online blog.


A Danish slang
as in
oh my God this is so great
foam is just emerging from my mouth
did you go to the concert last night?
Yeah I sure did
and oh boy was it foaming

You know what’s really
foaming for Danes?
that small edible plant?
Yeah, imagine if it grew kneehigh
like look at all of that
there is so much cress here
I’m ‘bout to cook some stuff

In fact cress is so cool
You can be all like
did you go to the concert last night?
And Danes would be all like
sure did
it was just kneehigh cress

Or maybe they would say broad yoghurt
and I have no idea
how it could be broad
but man
is the thought of broad yoghurt
just foaming
like that would be so kneehigh cress
if the yoghurt was broad

You know what was just kneehigh cress?
Like it was cooler than broad yoghurt?
And it really got my mouth foaming?
That concert last night

Asta Geil


There are five more things that must be done
than there are lines on my To Do list
and the cat just got sick in the family room
and the car needs an oil change last week


The woman in front of me at Starbucks
decides today is the day to give the barista
holy hell for misspelling her name
which we all know now is Melanee with 2 ees


Today I meant to make a key lime pie
to celebrate our twentieth anniversary
but the power's out and I forgot to buy
half of the ingredients at the store, but


Anita Sanz


Why do anything when you can sit at your computer?
In the dark.
At three in the morning.

Yes, I know that I have a math test
on the complex conjugate theorem,
and have a three thousand word essay
on the history of Japan.

But, would studying actually teach me
the important things in life like
What is the long term effect of time travel?
or What does your Hogwarts house really mean?

Where else would John Watson
declare his undying love for
Sherlock Holmes?
Despite what the writers say.

This movie.
I liked it.
I understood that reference.

This post broke my feels.
That post broke the fandom.

Melanie Rajpal


Morning creeps
In, and my mind is alert,
I am ready for a flirt
With the beeps

Of vision.
I can catch the sharp glimmer
And feel the cleansing fever
Or reason

Gone acute,
So acute it leaves the stage
For the words of a new sage
To take root.

Serge Bouyat


No worries,
she cool.


Gonna come
ya hot geek?

dunno . . .

. . . yeah right

Bobbie Townsend


“Hang a Ralphie”, he said
as my taxicab careened
through slippery city streets
in a merciless storm.
“Hang a Louie, next block” as
he unveiled his tale.
“The kids, they don’t know, I try
to tell em. The greats, you know,
Eckstine, Sara, Trane, Monk.… they
don’t wanna listen. Hang a Louie, then
a quick Ralphie.”
I made the turns, the Louie then the quick
Ralphie, all the time listening.
“It’s all that bump, all that disco.
My daughter, she’s no fool, why she wanna
mess with that stuff? And my boy, he’s a lost
cause, a lost cause.” Three more Ralphies and
a Louie and we were there. The Three Sisters
Lounge. Music was pouring out the weathered
steel door in the fading brick wall. Damn
fine sax and piano. “Can you come in for
a taste?” Boy, I wished I could but Pete the dispatcher
would nail my ass to the wall and I needed this job.
He leaned in through the window: “Don’t get me
wrong. They’re great kids, I love em to death. But why oh
why can’t they dig real music, stead of that disco shit?”
I didn’t know. Man oh man, I wanted that taste, but
watched him go in to his Nirvana alone.
It was 1977. Barry White came on my cab
radio. I switched it off.
Hung a Huey, and headed back.

R. Bremner


Its totes amaze,
defo for me,
Brillyant, Sweets
or plain Lovley.

It sucks:
so sad.
it Bites, babe;
its just bad.

We clip our words
and stick them back
make a language
that glues us together.

So we know what to say
when things are wrong
and can convey our delight,
when, for a change, things go right.

Josephine Allen


From depths of house, a moan
as if prelude to a storm.
Is it the plumbing? Find an old-time
tin coffee-can to use as thunder-
pot until the hero appears – not
like sumo wrestlers to lift the weight
of this messy physical world;
no, our hero comes to read the ancient,
sketchy plans of tank and leach-
field, to witch the underground flow
with two bent coat-hangers.
Can he dredge the depths of mankind’s
sheen-river of waste to give back
reflected light of day? Our grand-
mothers gazed at fashion-plates
called Lady-with-Dahlia as if
they’d never had to use a “po.”
Nor did that slangy euphemism
ever cross their lips.

Taylor Graham


The list is endless.

This is all I hear,
Let’s get turnt tonight!
Why can’t people actually say
or to have fun?

I’m hella tired.
Why can’t people say
Or even,
Hell of a.
But then,
when you say,
I’m hella tired
it becomes,
I’m hell of a tired.
That doesn’t sound right.

He’s bae.
What is the purpose of bae?
‘Before Anything Else’
Why couldn’t we keep babe?
It’s short for baby.
We have other nicknames,
like honey, darling, love.
I certainly would not want to be called bae.

Did we get lazy along the way?
I didn’t know sounding smart
was such a hassle.

Kimberly Stanczak


Read the antique plate, fifty years after anyone said it out loud,
The owner’s testament he was still into bell-bottoms and tie-dyes,
And the universal love inspired by the Beatles;
That he was still ready to run rather than fight in Viet Nam.

But “groovy” wasn’t said where we lived,
Especially when the Capital Record Plant in Scranton,
The one that pressed most of those early Beatles’ albums,
Closed and moved its dream-making machines to Los Angeles,

Leaving us to the language of the dying coal mines;
Where miners coughed words like ‘sprag,”
Dragging their boots in the dust to slow cars laden with coal;
Which is how we stopped our ancient bikes when the chains fell off;

Where miners ‘panked” sticks of dynamite
Into holes drilled into coal seams,
Fixing the charge for its full effect,
A metaphor for bragging teenage boys.

So while the rest of the generation, like the owner of this Cobra,
Was grooving to the Beatles’ singing “I want to hold your hand,”
We were muttering behind the coal breaker,
“Girl, don’t tell me to sprag myself;

“You know you want me to pank you as much as I do,”
In our crude, barbaric language,
Which cut us off from the Summer of Love.

Ron Yazinski


In the name of Google, and Facebook, and Twitter.

Our internet, which art in the cloud,
Forever be thy presence.
Thy info thrill, our egos build
On our phones as it does on our tablets.
Give us this day our continuous boost,
And forgive us our updates as
We forgive those who unfriend us.
And lead us not into false emails,
But deliver us from phishing.
For thine is the YouTube, the Reddit,
And the Netflix, for ever and ever—

Robert Carroll Miller


A word to describe a lot of something
A positive feeling
A greeting

Bro, that’s one hella sick ride you got
Thanks, man, there were hella renovations to be done
Looks dope, though, bruh
Yeah, it’s hella

When a word is, like, not real
Can we really use it correctly?
Or do we just replace real words
with fake words to make us feel

We’re gettin’ hella turnt tonight, man

But you cannot say that
we’re getting very drunk tonight, friend
because then you will sound
hella lame

Slang words are apparently causing
hella damage to our own vocabulary

But whatever,
it’s hella

Mary Bach