Pop Poetry

Hi, Emily. I wrote you a poem. About your show. Nothing weird about that. Nothing at all.

Sometimes we don’t want to hide our guilty pleasures. Leigh Stein, new kid on the poetry scene , has come to terms with her secret passion for The Bachelorette by turning the reality show into her personal poetry bank. She repurposed lines of dialogue and constructed poems from several episodes creating an  off-center sequence that certainly has more gravitas than its source material.

In an age where fan fiction leads to blockbusters like Fifty Shades of Grey, and an entire Internet industry is devoted to simply recapping popular shows, it isn’t too surprising that literary stars are entering the pop culture mix. Is Stein’s work satirical commentary or fan-girl homage? Does it have to be one or the other?

I’m curious about Stein’s process and wondered how other TV shows or movies would stand up to this lyrical mash-up. So I found screenplays/scripts from three of my favorite summer indulgences: “Breaking Bad,” Magic Mike, and The Dark Knight Rises and turned their dialogue into three poems. I found the experience to be a bit like putting together a 500 piece puzzle. Made of meth. And leather cowls. Is this the poetry of the future? I don’t think so. But it certainly feels like a natural evolution in the way that we consume and interact with popular entertainment.


Pure Glass

These doctors, little rich girls, dead-eyed douchebags,

talking about surviving—be on notice—no one’s looking for you.

They want to taste the coffin,

this shiny white pearlescence,

the blue stuff that crossed the border.

Do I need to state the obvious?

I do not believe fear to be an effective motivator.

You see, hydrofluoric acid is not swift, not cunning,

but a secret weapon while the hours suck.

I haven’t been myself lately—just adding to the millions—

always the picture of innocence.


Ladies of Tampa

The law says you cannot touch

the people in the daylight

so you don’t wanna know

what I have to do for twenties.

No matter how much you love

sometimes a life completely betrays you.


A Necessary Evil

You are in for a show tonight, son.

No one cared who I was until I put on a mask.

Speak of the devil and a sanctuary shall appear,

an idol who will not stop from tearing down this city.

Over the centuries you may face crisis,

in deep with the wrong people,

the brilliant people, rising from this abyss

where rules are weapons in the hearts of their descendants.



  • Amaris Amaris says:

    Alright for fan fiction Friday. In the spirit, here’s my pop culture poem:


    Loud and clear
    solar winds blow across
    a trick of light and shadows,
    minus three seconds.

    How do you read a come back
    like winged astronauts
    knowing something might go wrong
    in a rusty old bucket?

    So you think this x-ray is bogus?
    Lock your visors deep.

    Can you trace
    T-minus an accident?
    I’m breaking up.

    I’m standing by, cutting
    off a dull thump,
    your boyhood hero.

    Houston? You take care.
    Beyond reentry, it’s anybody’s guess.

  • Aileen says:

    Suh-weet! Last two lines are lovely.

  • Fitz says:

    Euugghhh, I don’t know. The whole idea of pop culture references in poems generally makes me uncomfortable, unless it’s very well done. I like your poems, though I don’t know of all the references, and maybe that helps to an extent, because I don’t have one set association. Leigh Stein’s poems just read as flat to me. Or maybe it’s that they know they’re being clever, or trying to be clever, and I can feel how.. smug is not the right word, but.. smug they are. I don’t know. I suppose it’s something I have to get over, but when I see the word “iPod” in a poem, I immediately cringe.

  • Aileen says:

    Fitz, I don’t know if you have to “get over it” so much as ask what role does pop culture have in the legitimate art world? I think it’s perfectly fine to dismiss it, because it is a matter of taste. But know that it probably isn’t going away any time soon. Think about the way that we integrate popular culture into our every day life, how social media makes that process increasingly seamless. The Internet is the unique mark of this generation and art only advances when artists begin to accurately interpret the aspects of their culture that set it aside from other ages.

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