Journal of Writing & Environment

Web Rove: Dirty Words

By Kelly Slivka

Sometimes, you just need to curse. I love cursing. I choose my curse words carefully, loading them with as much vitriol and shock value as possible. It’s good to be shocked, to be uncomfortable, to be taken to the edge of your tolerance. This is where you uncover yourself and where you grow. This is the frontline, where it all happens.

As my mom’s motto about children went when I was growing up, “Keep their hands dirty and their minds disturbed.”

Mothers, Lock Up Your Daughters Because They are Terrifying” by Alice Sola Kim (from Tin House)

This is a masterful story told from the perspective of punchy young girls who are recounting their dangerous and magical grade-school gallivanting. The style is sort of journalistic, sort of confessional-istic, sort of stream-of-consciousness. It’s wry and blunt and wild – channeling spirits, getting liquored up, abusing stereotypes. Be prepared to be taken for a ride.

Time Has a Color” by Jodi Daynard (from AGNI Online)

Despite my mother’s fierce motto about disturbed minds, my childhood was pretty vanilla. There was no yelling in my house, no door-slamming, and no cursing. No cursing ever. So I am perfectly enthralled by this essay about growing up in a crazy house – This can’t be true!, I found myself thinking over and over again as I read it. The essay is rugged and brutally honest, and it made me think about how I edit my personal history in my mind to remove all the difficult and awkward moments, however vanilla they were. Daynard apparently hasn’t, and I’m so thankful.

Russell and Mary” by Michael Donohue (from The Georgia Review)

When it was published in 2007, this essay won a National Magazine Award, and it won’t take you long to understand why. In this essay, the author catalogs some of the things left behind in his Park Slope apartment building after his colorful landlady passes away. He describes boxes of pornographic cartoons and disturbing news clippings and inter-splices these descriptions with the narrative of his late landlady and her troubled late husband.

Never One to Paint Space, I Paint Air” by Tod Marshall (from Poetry Northwest)

This suicide-themed poem is small on the page, but don’t let its physical size fool you. Depending on who you are and what your story is, there’s a good chance you will feel the seize of a sob on your second read-through and perhaps close the tab before you get to your third read-through. But that’s good poetry – after you’ve seen it once, it will illuminate you no matter how hard you try to shut the window.