Riese’s Team Pick: Emily Gould on Pure Poetry at Poetry Magazine

Earlier this week we discussed if we should ask Emily Gould if she wants to do a thing for Pure Poetry Week. We ultimately concluded that until I finish my essay/novel about her excellent book And the Heart Says Whatever, which I loved and Laneia loved and Natalie liked and B. hated and John Moon hated and Julia loved, we can’t really ask Emily Gould for anything. (That being said, Amazon Associates holds us responsible for at least 18 sales of And the Heart Says Whatever since it came out in May 2010).

Luckily for us AND YOU, she just-so-happened to write about poetry at poetry magazine this week! So we can just live vicarioously through them instead. It’s a good one for any of you still feeling hesitant about your ability to love poetry:

It turns out that unless you make a concerted effort in the direction of reading poetry, poetry doesn’t just traipse into your mind by chance. You have to seek poetry out and, at least at first, you have force yourself to swallow it. Like a scratchy vitamin. Those poems jammed into the middle of a page of text in a magazine: no one reads them, or if they do, they read them in the wrong mindset. A poem is not like a cartoon that provides an instantaneously assimilable commercial break, a respite from long-form narrative. A poem requires full attention in a way that prose does not, and worse, a poem is much harder to like because every word matters. In a 5,000-word story or article, a reader will forgive or just not notice an off metaphor, unfunny joke, or annoying word. But one false note destroys a poem, or at least destroys its rapport with a reader. In this way, a poem is as hard to like as a person.

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Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3211 articles for us.


  1. “Another great thing about reading books of poetry instead of single poems is that it takes only about an hour to read a book of poetry, sometimes even less. During this time people in the café or the library or the subway will admire you and also be totally mystified about what kind of person you are, which isn’t true of any other type of literature.”

    it’s stuff like this, riese. you know? i mean, it’s stuff like this.
    i’m so glad our generation decided we weren’t going to dick around with the truth.

  2. I don’t know if this is the place to say this, but I am so thankful that Autostraddle is doing Pure Poetry Week(s)! I’m a poet and it’s awesome to have my favorite website cover something that’s such a huge part of my life and means so much to me. I didn’t get to read all of the Pure Poetry Week posts yet because of that week or so the ‘straddle wasn’t working on Google Chrome but I’m super excited to catch up this weekend!

  3. Poetry = good way to learn a language. Short, digestible chunks, and it can be understood in a general, noob-friendly way, or a detailed, non-noob way.

    Look at the first line of this snappy little number Catullus wrote to the man who had an affair with his boyfriend:

    “Pedicabo ego vos et irrumabo…”
    (I will sodomize you and face-fuck you…)

  4. “A poem requires full attention in a way that prose does not.”
    Such a simple, beautiful truth.

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