Slippery “Not”

Check out Anne Michaels’s “Not.” As the title presages, the poem is structured around the word “not.” Michaels repeats the word throughout, creating a slippery elusiveness to the language. A sense of playfulness and foreboding simmers behind this repetition. But the insistence of the repetition also avoids any nihilistic sense you might expect from the negative.


Write your own “not” poem. Repeat “not” in a way that builds structure and create meaning. Begin by starting each line with “not,” but let the poem lead the way.