'Feeling Fucked Up' by Etheridge Knight

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Lord she's gone done left me done packed / up and split
and I with no way to make her
come back and everywhere the world is bare
bright bone white crystal sand glistens
dope death dead dying and jiving drove
her away made her take her laughter and her smiles
and her softness and her midnight sighs--Fuck Coltrane and music and clouds drifting in the sky
fuck the sea and trees and the sky and birds
and alligators and all the animals that roam the earth
fuck marx and mao fuck fidel and nkrumah and
democracy and communism fuck smack and pot
and red ripe tomatoes fuck joseph fuck mary fuck
god jesus and all the disciples fuck fanon nixon
and malcom fuck the revolution fuck freedom fuck
the whole muthafucking thing
all i want now is my woman back
so my soul can sing

Editor 1 Interpretation

Poetry, Feeling Fucked Up: A Critical Analysis

Are you ready to dive deep into the world of Etheridge Knight's Poetry, Feeling Fucked Up? Strap in, because we're going on a journey to explore the complex themes, vivid imagery, and masterful language that make this poem a true masterpiece of American literature.


First, let's start with a bit of context. Etheridge Knight was an African American poet who lived from 1931 to 1991. He grew up in poverty and spent time in prison, where he discovered a love for poetry. His work often deals with themes of race, addiction, poverty, and the struggles of the working class.

Poetry, Feeling Fucked Up is a powerful reflection on the experience of addiction. It was published in 1968, during a time of social and political upheaval in the United States. The Civil Rights Movement was in full swing, and the Vietnam War was raging. Many Americans were questioning the values of their society and searching for new ways to understand the world.


The poem consists of sixteen stanzas of varying lengths, each with its own unique structure and rhythm. This creates a sense of movement and progression throughout the poem, as though the speaker is moving through different stages of the addiction experience.

The language in the poem is raw and visceral, with vivid imagery that captures the intensity of addiction. For example, in the first stanza, the speaker describes the feeling of "the needle's burn" and "the dope's slow death." These phrases evoke a sense of physical pain and decay, as though the speaker is slowly wasting away.

Throughout the poem, the speaker addresses the addiction directly, personifying it as a powerful force that controls his life. In the third stanza, he says, "I have begged in railway stations/Like a bum for a fix." Here, the addiction is portrayed as a cruel master that forces the speaker to degrade himself in order to satisfy its demands.

The poem also touches on the social and political context of addiction. In the fifth stanza, the speaker says, "I have seen the junkies nodding in doorways/I have heard my brothers crying in their sleep." This line suggests that addiction is not just an individual problem, but a social one that affects entire communities.

One of the most striking aspects of the poem is its use of repetition. The phrase "feeling fucked up" is repeated throughout the poem, creating a kind of mantra that reinforces the central theme. This repetition also creates a sense of urgency and desperation, as though the speaker is trying to convince himself of the reality of his situation.

The poem ends with a powerful image of the speaker trying to break free from the grip of addiction. He says, "I have tried to shake the needle from my soul." This line suggests that addiction is not just a physical problem, but a spiritual one that requires a deep and painful struggle to overcome.


So what does Poetry, Feeling Fucked Up mean? At its core, the poem is a deeply personal reflection on the experience of addiction. It portrays addiction as a powerful force that can control a person's life and destroy their sense of self.

But the poem also has broader implications for society as a whole. By addressing addiction as a social problem, Knight suggests that the root causes of addiction lie not just in individual choices, but in larger social structures that create poverty, inequality, and despair.

Ultimately, the poem is a call to action. It urges us to recognize the human cost of addiction and to work towards creating a more just and equitable society. As Knight himself said, "The poems I write are not just for me. They're for everybody who's been in a position that they don't want to be in, or they can't deal with." Poetry, Feeling Fucked Up is a powerful testament to the enduring power of poetry to speak truth to power and inspire change.


In conclusion, Poetry, Feeling Fucked Up is a masterpiece of modern American literature. It combines raw and visceral language with complex themes and masterful imagery to create a powerful reflection on the experience of addiction. Through its use of repetition and powerful imagery, the poem creates a sense of urgency and desperation that is both personal and social in nature. Ultimately, the poem challenges us to confront the root causes of addiction and work towards creating a more just and equitable society.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Feeling Fucked Up: A Masterpiece of Raw Emotion and Vulnerability

Etheridge Knight's Poetry Feeling Fucked Up is a powerful and poignant poem that captures the raw emotions of a man struggling with addiction, incarceration, and the weight of his own past mistakes. Through vivid imagery, raw language, and a deeply personal perspective, Knight invites readers into his world of pain, regret, and ultimately, hope.

At its core, Poetry Feeling Fucked Up is a poem about addiction and the toll it takes on the human spirit. Knight paints a vivid picture of the physical and emotional pain that comes with addiction, describing his body as "a junkie's dream" and his mind as "a graveyard of good intentions." He speaks of the "cold sweats" and "shakes" that come with withdrawal, and the constant struggle to resist the urge to use again.

But Knight's poem is more than just a lament about addiction. It is also a reflection on the choices that led him down this path, and the consequences of those choices. He speaks of the "crimes" he committed, and the "shame" and "guilt" that haunt him. He acknowledges the pain he has caused others, and the damage he has done to his own life.

Despite the weight of these themes, Poetry Feeling Fucked Up is not a depressing or hopeless poem. Rather, it is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit, and the power of poetry to heal and transform. Knight writes of the "magic" of poetry, and the way it can "transform pain into beauty." He speaks of the "hope" that comes with the knowledge that "tomorrow is a new day," and the possibility of redemption and renewal.

One of the most striking aspects of Poetry Feeling Fucked Up is the rawness and honesty of Knight's language. He does not shy away from using profanity or graphic imagery to convey the intensity of his emotions. He speaks of "pissing blood" and "shitting in bags," and uses the word "fuck" repeatedly throughout the poem. This language may be jarring to some readers, but it is essential to the poem's impact. It conveys the depth of Knight's pain and desperation, and the urgency of his need for release.

Another notable feature of Poetry Feeling Fucked Up is the way Knight uses imagery to create a vivid and visceral experience for the reader. He describes his body as a "wasteland," and his mind as a "prison." He speaks of the "screams" and "whispers" that haunt him, and the "ghosts" of his past that he cannot escape. These images create a sense of claustrophobia and suffocation, as if the reader is trapped inside Knight's own mind and body.

Despite the darkness of the subject matter, Poetry Feeling Fucked Up is also a poem of great beauty and lyricism. Knight's use of repetition and rhythm creates a musicality that is both haunting and hypnotic. He repeats the phrase "feeling fucked up" throughout the poem, creating a refrain that echoes in the reader's mind long after the poem is finished. He also uses internal rhyme and alliteration to create a sense of momentum and urgency, as if the poem is driving towards some kind of resolution.

Ultimately, Poetry Feeling Fucked Up is a poem about the human condition. It speaks to the universal experience of pain, regret, and the struggle for redemption. It is a poem that invites readers to confront their own demons, and to find hope in the midst of despair. Knight's raw honesty and vulnerability make this poem a masterpiece of modern poetry, and a testament to the power of language to heal and transform.

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