Multimedia rectangular collage on paper with drawing of figures, faces, numbers, letters, mostly neutral colors, beige,, grey, taupe, a little bit of red.

I once hosted a post-reading dinner for a well-liked poet who moved between the bounds of academic poet and community poet. There was an imaginary line that bisected the long table—with differently trained writers on either end—a line straddled by the famous poet and the charcuterie platters. I was seated with the academics who characterized their goals in writing as aimed toward accessibility—referring to an ease of entry, or legibility, rather than disability justice. I asked what they thought about instapoets, in particular Rupi Kaur. Surely, I argued, she is the most widely accessible living poet on the planet—did they admire her work? They were peeved by my suggestion, as, I imagine, many others would be. 

I think what I heard expressed at that party as a desire for a certain kind of “accessibility” or legibility, might more accurately be described as a desire for intimacy. There is a desire to be legible to readers, but legibility is about something more than basic comprehension, instead it’s about making one’s feelings, motivations, perceptions known to another. And, I think making those intentions come forth on the page comes down to making authorial perspective the driving force of the poem, refracted through form, literary device, and other tools that make a poem a poem.

When I read for The Offing or for small press book contests, I am put off by work that presents itself as “relatable.” I don’t see legibility alone as facilitating deep engagement with content. I am interested in how the writer invites me, as a reader, into the room of the poem. A writer’s particular approach to form, whether inventive or simple, is where that intimacy with the reader can take root. I look for work in the submission piles that uses the tools of artmaking to uplift the content being conveyed, to make the work, well, work on the page.

Eloisa Amezcua is one poet who fosters intimacy, particularly in her multimedia work, where poems appear in small, handmade booklets with collages featuring images of flowers and insects, as well as more abstract visual art. Amezcua’s poems incorporate repetition and bilingualism, and she plays on the tension between transparency and opacity, using simple vocabulary to wrestle with existential questions, a tension that is made tangible in the idiosyncratic layout of her collages, in the varying thickness of the paper she uses. I watch the videos of her work and enter into an immersive, intimate space as I observe the artist’s hands moving, catch sight of the rings that adorn her fingers, listen to the sound of pages turning.

In Amezcua’s multimedia version of “i haven't masturbated in five days for fear of crying” the speaker’s recollections of the past, and of their nana, coupled with the poem’s second-person address, come together to create a space of longing and grief. The final, open spread of pages includes the lines “because from / the airplane I / could see both / oceans & where / they met” in a diptych with pasted in blooms cut as if in the silhouette of a heart. Like Amezcua’s hands, I, too, pause over the pages of words and visuals stretched open, almost feeling the pinpricks of binding thread at the book’s center, a sense of the insurmountable distance between the speaker and her desires washing over me. As a staff reader, this is what I hope for in the slush—poems that bring me into the fold.


The other day I was running around the circumference of Bde Maka Ska in Uptown Minneapolis, and there were a few gaggles of mature geese flanking fuzzy adolescents swimming in neat lines in the lake. People stopped on the paths, dismounted from their bikes, and taxied in their kayaks to take photos and videos, though they could not possibly hope to capture all of it: the flattened geese droppings on the path and their round earthy smell that enveloped the area, sandwiched between the white noise from the eastern lake and the traffic of the western Lake Street, with the glare of the sun stopped by the cool shadow of meandering clouds.

But those images and clips, the description I just detailed, could offer a window of perspective into each maker. The question then, is how do these people deploy the tools of their craft, whether photography or video—or perhaps language itself—not only to capture the experience but to convey it in such a way that one who encounters the work will be offered an intimate glimpse into another’s perspective.

Originally Published: June 30th, 2022

Lucia LoTempio is the author of Hot with the Bad Things (Alice James Books, 2020). With Suzannah Russ Spaar, she co-authored the chapbook Undone in Scarlet (Tammy, 2019). LoTempio serves on the editorial board for Alice James Books and is a poetry reader for The Offing. She lives and writes in Minneapolis.