ABCs of Poetry: U is for “Un,” as in “Un” the Prefix

Posted by on May 31, 2019 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ABCs of Poetry: U is for “Un,” as in “Un” the Prefix


Choose the word you want, the part of speech, attach the prefix and there you go.

Writing poems is like that (for me, anyway)—Un-shoring, uncoupling, un-troubling, unburdening, unending, un-fucking…

That’s the one: Un-fucking.

Writing poems is like that, like un-fucking yourself.

And when I say write, I mean draft, again and again and again—so much that you’ve un-fucked the “a” from the “gain” so its “again” again.


You want to write poems. You sit down to do so. Maybe, in whatever “writing space” that you write, you crack books, you find pages and place the books spine-up so the books look like distant birds in a landscape. You write some lines or stanzas—hell, you might even write a poem.

Nice work. Tomorrow, un-fuck it. The next day, un-fuck it again.

Choose your editorial method, the way you dice up what you’ve written, and there you go.


If poetry is the art of anything, it’s the art of the “Un,” a prefix that breeds the anxiety and liberty of detachment, a prefix that helps us recognize what we have by knowing what we can lose—which means, to my mind, a rejection of ego…

An un-fucking.

Or, really, any other “un” word you can muster—it all fits. Poetry, writing poems, is the “un,” the voice of us yearning the way God must’ve yearned hovering over the formless deep: in un-ease, in unraveling, and then in understanding.


Maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about. Maybe writing poems is the opposite of the “un.” Maybe I chose “un” the prefix because I had to choose “U” as a letter for this series of craft essays. And maybe that’s the point. Maybe by not knowing I’ll find something cogent to say by the end of this. And then I’ll be undone, unfurled, un-fucked, understood.


I sit down to write with an idea, almost always (I’m not one to free-write or write about not being able to write in the face of writing). I pull out books, scan some, don’t look at others, then place them text down (spine-up like distant birds in a landscape). I have an idea, and maybe the spine-up books have helped or hindered it, but it doesn’t matter. My idea is unformed.

Tomorrow I’ll understand the idea’s unimportance; tomorrow I’ll have un-fucked myself from the idea and un-fucked the idea from the poem.

The un-writing of however I start a poem is the core of the poem, the poem’s id, the un-caged animal lusty and unquenchable.

I have to feed it. But first I have to understand how to unshackle it, unlock it, un-cage it.


Am I unclear?

Whatever you write, un-do it. Your poem will crawl out un-shackled and un-caged.

And then you’ll be un-fucked, at least for a little while.

Matt LaFreniere is a husband, father, teacher, poet–not always in that order. His first poetry collection, Don’t Turn the Projector Off!, was recently published by Unsolicited Press. His poems have appeared in Dunes Review, Main Street Rag, Pilgrimage, Schuylkill Valley Journal, Spry, and others.