On Failure

Art by Gabrielle Bates

A series conceived by Keetje Kuipers and the editors of Poetry Northwest, featuring essays that investigate the practice of failure—as a writer, as a citizen. Each featured writer will present a work of their own that they see as a failure, and offer a glimpse behind the curtain at their creative process.


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


“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.”


“The poem has been reincarnated across my entire writing life. Each time I discover a version I think will let me move on, I turn around and recognize its troubled voice asking me again to rethink how I’ve got it all wrong, how writing it down (and all its previous iterations) was never going to satisfy or realize—what? I’m failing sometimes to even know what it is that I’m praying for.”

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).”