On Failure

Art by Gabrielle Bates

A series conceived by Keetje Kuipers and the editors of Poetry Northwest, featuring essays from a range of poets that investigate the practice of failure, both as poet and citizen. Each writer presents a work of their own that they see as a failure, and offers a peek behind the curtain at their creative process.

Failure as Negative Space

The full impact of our degradation and exploitation of the natural world will never be known. We’ll never be able to measure the entire scope and depth of the suffering humanity has caused. It isn’t quite discernable. It doesn’t have a definitive shape. 


On Rejection, the Language of Trauma, and the Rewards of Staying Open

I hadn’t yet been introduced to the forms that trauma speaks in, the ways trauma projects its own dark shadows, creates its own silences, repeats its own fractured inner landscapes that resist narration. 


Blessèd Delusions: Literary Follies and Visual Poems

First I thought Stet would fail to be a book, and now that it has failed to fail and exists in the world, its forms and processes are failing to stay put between its front and back covers.


Thirty-One Tiny Failures and One Labyrinth: On Parenting and Writing

When I delete my apologies I can imagine the words are still ghosted in the pixels of my screen.


Failures are Special Because They Belong to Us

Failure is such an extraordinary teacher. I wouldn’t say I enjoy it, per se, but it’s a mentor that I’m settling into, one I’m learning to have a more complex relationship with.


It is no small thing to discover fresh words for old wounds.

In doing so, we invite alternate, healthy ways of understanding our survival; in doing so, we intercede for the impossible connections in which we desire and deserve to be alive.


There’s No Way You’ll Ever Be Able to Get This Right

In which Keetje Kuipers introduces the series.

Deciding to seek publication for an unfinished poem wasn’t a new idea for me. I’ve always believed that sharing with readers works that are still in draft can be a way of pulling back the curtain on a process that is really a lot less mystical than we writers sometimes make it seem. But I had never considered sending out for publication a poem that would never be finished, one that honestly couldn’t be finished (at least not by me).