Tequila Rhymes or How to Write a Poem Caitlin Upshall Essay

person_pin Tequila Rhymes or How to Write a Poem

by Caitlin Upshall

Published in Issue No. 286 ~ March, 2021

The act of writing a spoken word poem is like reading a recipe for a cocktail. The first time you do it, you will follow the directions exactly.

When it calls for an engaging title, you will spend hours writing and erasing ideas. When you finally settle on one, you will practice the delivery of it a dozen times.

Step three of this recipe will call for a personal story. You will search through diaries and dream journals until you find one. You will not ask the subjects of the story if they want to be featured in your poems until it is far too late.

When they find out that you have written about them, they will either be upset that you took creative liberties or got the story right.

You have yet to tell stories that don’t make people angry; this is a drink with a kick.

When your father hears your poetry and listens to you describe the first time you were hurt, you will see his eyes begin to water and understand the power that your writing has to break his heart.

You will write an apology and never give it to him.

A footnote at the bottom will remind you to take the heartbreak as a gift and understand that sometimes we need our hearts to be broken in order for them to heal and become stronger.

We cannot care for another person’s sadness until we feel a fraction of it ourselves.

This is the reason for writing.

Step five will instruct you to collect slices of metaphors from the cutting board. Add them to your drink with superfluous speech, eloquent elongation, and…dramatic pauses to taste.

Decide which words will be capitalized for effect. Think back to the poems of Dickinson and the way she drew her words.

With one lowercase “t,” Emily could hide galaxies of truth in her writing. Think of all of the lowercase letters you put in your writing to protect people who didn’t deserve it, people who would be upset now that you got the story right.

Included in the list of ingredients are all of the details you decided to keep secret.

We don’t keep these secrets anymore.

This will be the second personal story that you smuggle in beneath literary device.

When you want to finish your poem, space the words out like sugar on the rim.


Wait for your pulse to return to normal. Your listeners will not know when this happens, and sometimes it will take longer than you expect.

Let the room sit until the dust settles from the storm you have brought.

Close the cheap spiral notebook in which you keep your work.

Feel your heart begin to break again.

Remember that this is normal. Remember that this is how your poems are born.

You are not dying; you are tending to wounds that never healed in the first place.

Take a sip of your poem, swirl the words around in your mouth.

Swallow, then start making another.

account_box More About

Caitlin Upshall decided to be an author when she was nine years old. She has spent her grown-up years trying to make her 3rd grade-self proud. Her most recent work can be found in For Women Who Roar, The Tiny Journal, and Oyedrum. More publications can be found at: https://caitlinupshall.wixsite.com/caitlin-upshall