Cigarette smoke has an aftertaste like

roasted seaweed.

It doesn’t go away even when you spit,

even when you eat icebreaker mints.

I didn’t think I would ever know

what cigarette smoke tastes like,

but I do now – it’s like seaweed.

And it coats the roof of your mouth

and the back of your throat.

It lingers on your tongue

the way the smell lingers

on your sweater. Perfume

doesn’t make the smell go away,

by the way, the two smells just mix

together and they become bittersweet –

like rose and rusted copper –

and you wonder if anyone else

can smell the copper on your collar.

I took off my sweater the first time,

just in case. Because no one can taste

the seaweed on your tongue,

but they can smell it on your clothes

because it’s so strong

it’s almost a different color.

And God knows what’ll happen

if they smell it on my clothes.

Cheery I, Cheerio!

I’m eating Cheerios for dinner again –

the heart-healthy kind, the gluten-free fortified kind

that’s supposed to lower my blood pressure and

give me skin that’s moist to the touch, oh and silky hair.

All the freshness folic acid Vitamin A B D I need infused in O-shaped

whole-oat oats holy moly that’s a whole lotta wholesome goodness.

There’s only 2g of protein but that’s okay because

there’s protein in milk and I drink the grass fed kind.

And you know stuff’s high quality when it’s grass fed right?

Next time I’ll try the Multigrain blend because one serving

will give me 3g of dietary fiber and may reduce heart disease!

Unsplendid Magazine: a tribute to the traditional

There’s a lot more freedom in poetry now. More and more contemporary poets are using poetry as a means of voicing their opinions without restraint. Free verse allows poets to express their individuality, independence, and well, freedom – there are hardly any limits, boundaries, or strict rules to obey. As free verse poetry has taken the contemporary poetry scene by storm, structured poems have begun to dwindle in number and in popularity as their traditionalistic forms are often seen as limiting and old-fashioned.

Though I myself am a fan of poems written in form, I assumed that most of my fellow poets do not hold structured poetry with similar regard, which is why discovering Unsplendid Magazine was a welcome surprise.

I stumbled upon Unsplendid Magazine on accident, actually. I was looking through a list of the best online literature journals and saw Unsplendid on the list. Intrigued by the title, I googled the name, found their website, and was greeted with the front cover of their latest issue. I perused the issue and realized that the poems were all written in a form. After scanning the “About” section on their website, I learned that Unsplendid only receives poetry written in forms (like sonnets, villanelles, sestinas, etc.).

Although structured poetry is becoming increasingly categorized as stuffy, restrictive, and archaic in the wake of free verse, Unsplendid challenges these categorizations. By highlighting poetry that incorporates contemporary language into classic forms, Unsplendid pays tribute to the traditional.

Take this poem written by Amanda Gunn for their February 2017 issue, titled All Things: 

Across a distance you’re
the one I’ve wanted, ever.

There is no plate of fish
to fry. There’s never snow

tracked on the floor. I hear
a bottle clink the sink

across the phone and know
I’ve dreamt this. Is that sound

you, eating onion? Is
your foot beneath the dog?

I like to say I’ve brought
you here with me, but I

just have a picture: you,
as drowsy, ruddy, loose

as I can ever quite
recall, the obstacle

to what I longed for when
I left you in the fall.

All Things is clearly a structured piece, but the poem is accessible, easy to follow, and successfully conveys its message in as few words as possible. It’s simple and contained, but the content is not confined or limited by the form. In fact, it embraces the form – within each stanza, the language thrives, moves, speaks.

The poems in each issue are quite varied in terms of style, voice, and form of course, but they are all alike in that they are accessible, beautifully written, and enriched with meaning. I highly recommend visiting Unsplendid magazine’s website if you’re in the mood for contemporary poetry with a traditional twist.

A villanelle about learning how to love again

I wrote the following villanelle – a highly structured poem of 19 lines – for young women who are struggling to love and appreciate their bodies, just as I have struggled.

Women of all ages are constantly exposed to images and literature via media that portray successful women as thin, toned, and flawless, which are not only unreasonable expectations, but often are impossible to achieve. This interpretation of the “ideal woman”, though unfounded, continues to negatively influence young women in the U.S. and around the world who believe that they will never be able to attain the “ideal.” This often leads to body image issues and self-deprecating beliefs, as it gradually begins to distort young people’s mindsets and their perception of themselves.

I too have fallen prey to the desire to achieve a flawless and desirable outward appearance, and that desire has held reign over my life. For the past several years, every time I assessed my body in the mirror, I’d find it repulsive. Then, I’d succumb to self-deprecating thoughts that lingered with me throughout the rest of the day. These thoughts had negative effects on my mental, emotional, and physical well-being. When I began to come to terms with the fact that my thoughts were having detrimental effects on my health, I realized that something needed to change. Now, I am beginning to fight these thoughts in an attempt to change my mindset for good. And I am learning to fight those thoughts with truth – the truth that my body is one of the greatest tools that I have, and it deserves to be loved, respected, and appreciated.

As a way of changing my mindset, I’ve been writing poetry as a way to discuss and reconstruct my thoughts. In this particular poem, I decided to play with the villanelle structure. Because the first line and the last line are repeated several times throughout the villanelle, I wanted to make those two lines as powerful, meaningful, and as true as possible: my body is nothing to be ashamed of – my body is a gift. It takes me to class, it keeps me warm, it keeps me safe. These lines are truths that I need to repeat to myself over and over again. They are truths that I need to remember and acknowledge, truths I need to repeat until I take them to heart. My body deserves to be loved, and I’m learning to love it again.

I wrote this poem as a reminder not only for myself, but for the hundreds of thousands of women who have grown to despise their bodies. This is a reminder for every single woman that your body deserves your respect and it deserves your unconditional love.


A villanelle about learning how to love again

By Julia Eberhardt

My body is a ship at sea –

a vessel for my weary soul.

I will let it carry me.

Wherever it needs to go, I’m ready.

My fat is fuel, my skin is steel,

my body is a ship at sea –

it’s steady, rooted like a tree.

I am the fruit of its branches.

I will let it carry me.

It’s as strong as I will it to be.

For as long as I stay afloat,

my body is a ship at sea.

Because in my body I am free

and in my body I am safe.

I will let it carry me.

My body is a potted vase,

a jar of clay –

My body is a ship at sea.

And I will let it carry me.