Actual advice for writing poetry, plus a poem that utilizes none of it

First off, you’re welcome for the ABSOLUTELY FREE NOTES I’m about to give you from my Very Professional Public High School Education. It’s your (or your parents’) tax dollars that paid for this, and I’m nothing if not completely willing to help you maximize your return on investment. Read and learn, then be completely befuddled by whatever may follow:

March 24, 2003: Satirical generic goth poem, plus class dynamicsTranscription:

Suggestions for revising a poem:
1) Turn poem over & start again
2) Change way poem looks on page
3) Take problematic line & rewrite at LEAST 5 ways
4) Find the “wrong turn” & go in a different direction
5) Change or add a controlling metaphor
6) Write a question word
7) Try “surgery”—RADICAL surgery

March 23, 2001 – Jon [redacted] vomited ALL over in Ms. [rest of line unavailable]

“I have a question.”

(waits) <—– “What is it?” etc.

“Well… you can’t answer it.”


This quotation means a lot to me because it successfully confused the shit out of Captain. He wanted me to explain it to him because I told Heather that it was like super-subtle or something, but oh so wrong he was. Then he said something like “it’s like trying to solve a puzzle that’s not a puzzle, but neither of us can remember exactly what it was because ‘That was sooo long ago…'”

MY FIRST POEM: <— generic goth poem (THIS IS SATIRICAL, BY ME)
Oh the pain
the unbearable pain
the world hates me
nobody understands me
I might as well be dead
nobody would care or notice
society bites
go to hell

This is one of the most rewarding things you will read on this web site, ever. You and I both know that the “generic goth poem” is completely hilarious and amazing, so I won’t even get into that. I also won’t pretend to understand the quote asserting that someone named Jon [Redacted] apparently vomited “all over in” something 2 years prior to the day on which I took these notes, because that raises too many questions to even fit into one blog post. Instead, let’s talk about the mind games going on in my imagined scenario regarding asking someone a question.

I was originally looking at my notes trying to figure out exactly what was going on with the whole imagined scenario on the page. By means of what mental gymnastics had I sent my high school friend Captain tumbling off his balance beam of logic? Before putting much thought into it, I decided to haphazardly test the scenario on an unsuspecting audience:

Me: I have a question.
My Girlfriend: Yes?
Me: Well… you can’t answer it.
My Girlfriend: Okay.
(I walk over to her to get her attention and re-initiate the conversation)
Me: Thanks. You’ll understand why I asked that later.
My Girlfriend: Um, okay… could you ask the Internet?
Me: Oh, no, I mean… There’s no context. There is no actual question.
My Girlfriend: Oh. Is that why I can’t answer it?


Think about this entire thing for a second. My notes actually lack any sort of explanation for the scenario that I had created to confound/infuriate one of my classmates, as I instead chose to focus on my utter delight at having pulled it off. And yet, there it is. My enigmatic confabulation was, as are many of my creations, decidedly meta. And I couldn’t be more proud of my teenage self.

Sorry, I’d keep writing, but I’ll be over here DROPPING THE MIC.

This post is part of Cody’s “10-Year Idea Reunion” series, in which Cody revisits his creative writing class assignments 10+ years after writing them. Learn more about Cody’s Idea Reunion and subscribe on WordPress to follow along!


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About Cody Gough

Cody Gough is a podcast and digital media executive and award-winning producer. Among his accomplishments, most notably he spent more than a decade on-air at Chicago's WGN Radio, and later produced and hosted more than 1,000 episodes of Discovery's award-winning educational podcast, Curiosity Daily. Cody is a podcast professional specializing in audio programming and production. What sets him apart is that he's a terrestrial radio professional AND a digital native with a social media marketing background. This means he's able to combine the radio industry's 100+ years of learnings with digital content expertise to make superior podcasting strategies and content. As an established radio veteran, Cody spent more than a decade producing and hosting shows on Chicago's prestigious 720 WGN Radio. There, he helped launch the WGN Plus podcast network, where he hosted their first and only dedicated video game podcast, Game/Life Balance U.S. In addition to his broadcast experience, Cody has written for various outlets, including, the GonnaGeek Network, and HuffPost. He's also a graduate of several improv programs in Chicago (including the Second City Conservatory) and has written and performed for a variety of theater, film, and web productions, as well as industrial/commercial videos.

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