Leaves caked my front yard, suffocating the burgeoning grass below as I sat on the couch and told myself only one more episode of Law & Order and then I’ll get up and tackle the task waiting for me outside my front door.


Sitting on the couch half listening to the episode while full-on procrastinating, my interest piqued when the defendant took the stand. A frustrated artist, the man was on trial for what he did to a woman who financially supported an artist whose work he found distasteful and vulgar. On the stand, he argued “that is not art because art is about beauty and life—like Renoir and Degas…”

As we often hear, art imitates life. Listening to the character’s argument, I thought how many people have the same thought about poetry—that it should be about beauty and life.

Thankfully, Dr. Martina McGowan in her poetry collection i am the rage does and doesn’t agree.

Her collection may not be about standard expressions of beauty, but it is definitely about life, a life people too often want to ignore and pretend does not exist. 

In her title poem “I am the Rage,” McGowan sets the tone of the collection with the lines: 


I Am the Rage


I am the rage, roiling just beneath the surface

I am the dream deferred 


I am the promises kneaded and repeated

But never kept (1)

And later in the poem, she addresses elements of life others want to ignore:


I am the salty tears of anxious mothers

Frightened each time her child crosses the threshold 

Praying for a return that is not guaranteed

Like payment of some impossible garnishee on the lives we

want for them (3)

In her poem “In My Rearview Mirror,” McGowan recounts the fear of hearing sirens and seeing flashing lights. She describes how she slows down out of fear, how she goes through an internal checklist because she knows “[n]othing and everything can be suspicious (26). She finishes with a sense of relief that really isn’t relief:


They finally pass me by

I almost drop my head to the steering wheel in relief

A trickle of sweat running down my back

Because of the fear

The fear is this:

One day this will not end so well (27)

Poems in the collection such as “Human Enough,” “Numb to the News,” “A Shocking New Race War,” and “America’s Postpartum Depression” may not fit the definition of poetry some may have, but they reflect the lives so many know as their reality. 

Maybe, we could do with poetry that gets a little aggressive and makes us uncomfortable.

Scratch that—we need aggressive poetry that makes us uncomfortable. 


Download "Headline Poetry" activity below! Students will use an item in the news that interests them and create poetry from the sources they find.



Michael Méndez Guevara is a former high school journalism and English teacher who spent his time in the classroom helping students see themselves as writers and fall in love with reading through the world of young adult literature. As an educational sales consultant with Perfection Learning®, Michael works with teachers and schools on improving their literacy instruction and providing resources to help students achieve academic success. He has taught elementary school, middle school, and high school and has worked as a district level leader and served on the Texas state standards revision committee that developed the state’s current literacy standards. He is the father of three adult sons, the youngest a student at the University of Kansas—Rock Chalk! Michael is working on a professional development book for literacy educators and currently has agents reading the manuscript of his young adult novel, The Closest Thing to a Normal Life. When he's not reading, writing, or running, Michael is fully committed to watching as much Law & Order as possible.