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Nora Cooper, performing at IWPS 2019 in San Diego, CA.
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So some people, my mother, have expressed a distaste For how frequently I use the word fuck in my poems. The thing is, I love the word fuck. Fuck is such a good word. I love that it doesn't have a definition. It's a shape-shifter, a word whose meaning
depends entirely on how you use it, Which is all words sort of, but fuck is just more honest about it. It doesn't really even have an etymologic history, So it never really had a definition. No one really knows where it comes from. It's just this sound that we all started making in a million different situations And somehow we always understand each other, Which is wild because this language is messy and imprecise And somehow, every time I say fuck, it's exactly what I mean, And you get it, and isn't that the whole thing, like with poetry, Like figurative devices and fucking like imagery and whatnot? But like poets, like we're just really trying to say exactly what we mean Out loud Where someone can hear it And maybe understand, So poetry like the word fuck or like God Was born of an unknown and probably unknowable origin, Belonging to everyone, Meaning exactly what you need it to, Changing and growing every time it's used in a new way or by a new person Or for a new purpose,
shape-shifting always, Sometimes the weapon, sometimes the salve, Depending on how you use it, A tool against loneliness, I mean, have you ever felt misunderstood, Like really like when you're in a nightmare And you try to scream but no sound comes out. How much time have I wasted lost in language trying to say what I mean But make it pretty or appropriate or less scary. But that feeling when you say what you mean out loud
And someone understands,
it's like– Okay but that's my point because it's like fuck, You know, it's like, fuck, right? So like fuck your fucking classist gatekeeping bullshit. Fuck poetry needing to be pretty or sad or incomprehensible or like inspiring. Fuck only bad experiences being deemed fucking significant. Fuck feeling like I have to write about trauma Or like I'm fucking writing too much about trauma, Sometimes all I have to say is just fuck! Or like fuck!! Or like fuck!!! And you know exactly what I mean, So like, that's not a poem? Fuck you. (laughter and applause)