More than Luck


Katherine Frain

 -A blackout poem, after David Foster Wallace’s 2005 Kenyon graduation commencement speech.

Lovely: morning, a bracket of wilderness, the existence of God
after about the fourth beer. A lost blizzard, all puzzled,
wandering back to different people, constructing
belief templates from interpretations of YOUR. Cliché:

adults almost always shoot themselves in the head.
The terrible master. I submit that this is
the respectable; an average of hideously-lit last places
you want to be. So checkout. Your junky

imagination pulls to bone cancer. Kindness. Hell, love, fellowship:
the skeleton of every great story. The trick of freedom.
Of skull-sized kingdoms. Of precious achieving. This is,
is, is, IS. Now: more than luck.


  1. Lovely, truly excellent writing. However I was lost in the metaphors, where is this poem going?

  2. What a great question! For context, this is actually a blackout poem, created after David Foster Wallace’s graduation speech in 2005 made at Kenyon College. Ms. Frain provides an insightful, imaginative take on the original speech, which can be found in its full text here:

  3. Hey, author checking in here. This is a blackout poem, as the editors have said, which means basically that I went through the speech kind of ‘in order’ (read: if you went through and picked this poem out of the transcripts, there’d be no lines from paragraph four before paragraph three – you can basically read it straight through and see where I lifted). As for what that means – blackout poetry tries to change the thesis of what it takes from, and I didn’t do that all the way here. That’s deliberate.
    David Foster Wallace tends to have these theses that I almost agree with but don’t. In this one, it was that life happens in the transitions – true enough, but the way that he phrased it seems horrible, to me. I don’t want to spend my life angry and having to compensate for that by trying to empathize with the anger of others. I don’t want to basically spend my entire life saying there’s nothing more than this.
    I’ve been banned permanently from making pterodactyl noises at the dinner table. I think that a lot of reality is your perception of it, and what you chose to highlight and emphasize. In rush hour traffic pretend you’re a guy in the movie fleeing cops. Appreciate the hell in your life as a plot device that’s only going to bring you to Buddha-like self-awareness or being the conquering hero. I don’t think that a jug of milk just has to be a jug of milk – basically it’s my belief that you can reframe life in these fantastical, magical ways and it’s not a cop-out. It’s an adventure that you’re creating. Luck emphasizes chance, and while good chance is great chance, you’re also responsible for a lot of your own story.

  4. Nice poem, Katherine. But, I think that I love your explication of it even more. Well thought out and concise. Thanks.

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