What? I Can’t Write About This?


One of the most enjoyable aspects of publishing a first book of poetry is–what else?–readers, but less obviously, it’s readers’ reactions to poems.

Here’s irony. Reading a lot about poetry, I often come across comments from experts, critics, and even other poets, spreading rumors like, “When writing poetry, you should never write about nature because it’s hackneyed. And certainly not love. Too Hallmark. And dogs? You must be crazy. Death? Only if you want to send your readers running while waving their arms over how depressing a poet you are.”

Yeah. Something to that effect. And then, just when I begin to second guess my work, readers of my book will tell me some of their favorite poems from are ones about nature, love, death, and DOGS.

The moral of this story is clear. As a poet, you write what you want to write. If it moves you or warms up your Muse’s harp strings, play it loud and proud! The naysayers apparently haven’t read Ecclesiastes about nothing being new under the sun. The secret is taking what’s always been there and finding personal magic in it. If it’s how the sun rays hit the boulders and cast their shadows, so be it.

Here’s a poem with strange inspiration, a combination of quotidian and quirky. It notes the way my dog always leaves a single nugget of dog food in his bowl each morning. It’s from my book, The Indifferent World, and it breaks the experts’ rules. So don’t tell the poetry police, will you?

“Dog Religion”
by Ken Craft

Each morning he rises and bows
before me–parable of humility,
maw yawning, paws splaying.

The hollow rattle of dry meal
raining on his aluminum bowl
pops his ears. Every day,
novelty in the ritual of repetition;
every day, the Pavlovian ear perk.
Like heartbeats and bad breath,
autonomous tail and tongue.
Just so.

Waiting for me
to move, he approaches the orb
demurely, noses in, crunches the bland
and the brown. That lovable greed.
Those stained, pacifist teeth.

He feeds, license and rabies tag
keeping time at bowl’s edge. And always,
in the end, one dry kibble
is left in a bowl cirrus-streaked
with spit: his offering
to the food gods, his prayer
answered each miraculous day.

— from The Indifferent World by Ken Craft, copyright 2016, Future Cycle Press



  1. Ken, I enjoyed your dog poem. Write about whatever you want is great advice. Here’s the dog poem i have to recite every time I give a reading. I suppose it’s my “signature” poem. I like reading it at a bar when I can get the drummer to give a drum roll before each “what’s that?”


    Lightning, then, of course, thunder.
    We can get used to anything.
    The window, lit up, shakes
    & we’re comforted, pulling
    the blankets to our chins. The dog,
    half-blind, diabetic, fat as a woodchuck,
    burrows between us, panting,
    trembling like she’s never heard
    thunder before. Maybe she hasn’t,
    she lives so much in the moment.
    Here’s her day: I was in. Now I’m out.
    I was out. Now I’m in. You going
    to eat that? You going to eat that?
    I’ll eat that! Here’s her night so far:
    What’s that? Thunder. What’s that?
    Thunder. What’s that? Thunder.


  2. I rarely write poetry, but it seems every time I do, its mixed reviews lol… This post particularly strikes true because I too wrote a post recently about the differences in reader’s perception, so I guess it’s still lingering around my messy brain a little. Kudos on driving the point home with this one, I love it!


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