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Watch: American PoemNick Laird

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American Poem


I hoped to visit tropical resorts

to feel that texture of expensive sadness.

I wanted to avoid slaughter by growing

so large I would not fit in the machine,


but thinking everything was magic

was the same as thinking nothing was:

magnets, racecraft, three card monte.

I know nothing of your grief, granted,


nor you mine, but isn’t that why we’re here?

No philosopher ever went into the deli

on Mercer and Spring and asked Mohammed

just to make her whatever sandwich


the universe had preordained. I for one

hope to stop reliving things I said once

that were only mildly funny. I have this

hunch everyone now adult is dealing with


the knowledge we are living in a failed

state of bad faith, and hence we shelter in

denunciation, poems of innocence and hurt,

our innocence, our hurt, while happily


we’re rapidly extracting rotted bodies

from the earth, all the liquid dead we nurse

our little systems on until they stop their

beeping, until, engorged as ticks, we burst.


Born in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland in 1975, Nick Laird was educated at Cookstown High School and Cambridge University. He worked as a lawyer for several years before leaving law to write full-time. The recipient of many prizes for his poetry and fiction, including the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature, the Ireland Chair of Poetry Award, the Betty Trask Prize, a Somerset Maugham award, and the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, he has lived in London, Warsaw, and Rome. He is on faculty at NYU and Professor of Creative Writing at the Seamus Heaney Centre At Queens University in Belfast.