Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

Looking for Flaws, Hoping to Find Some

A student once asked for
something interesting to read.
Something good.
Something you can feel, she said.
Something honest.
Something real.

I asked what that would be like.

There would be misspelled words,
she said, a few bad sentences.
Not sufficient to interfere
with the story, mind you,
but an honest flaw or error
here or there so you’d know
it wasn’t perfect,
wasn’t meant to be.

Just enough to get a glimpse
of the true imperfect person
behind the artifice.

Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt from Read Write Poem (#21: Perfectly Flawed) provided by Kristen McHenry asks us to consider the idea of perfection. It’s an interesting prompt that reminded me of a conversation I had with a student in one of my sophomore English classes a few years back. Further thoughts about perfection in literature were sparked by an interesting post, poetry by concession, at slow reads, which is very much worth checking out and probably influenced this poem.


  1. This is absolutely wonderful. Oh, the flaw of humanity, James.

  2. Your student would have loved the work of my ESL students…full of spelling mistakes and poorly constructed sentences. I withdraw that statement. In many schools I taught at in the past the ESL contingent were superior in literary expression compared to the native speakers.

    • I know what you mean about ESL students. Some of the most interesting and ambitious student writing I’ve seen has come from kids learning English.

  3. Your student puts beautifully what I’ve been noticing about my own reading over the past year or so — I can’t (and shouldn’t) get away from the author. One of my favorite literary theorists, Walter J. Ong, said this:

    “As contemplation [of a work of art or literature] enters upon a more serious stage, the human being is driven by the whole economy of what it is to be man to find opposite himself, in that which he contemplates, a person capable of reacting in turn. This drive is primordial and will not be denied.”

    Reading as a kind of primordial desire for intimacy.

    • Peter, thanks for sharing that quote. That desire for connection with the author seems so much stronger in my students than I typically see in adults. Often they seem to want all writing to be literally true, something, I suspect, comes from that need to connect.

  4. Interesting. It reminds me of what a harsh judge I am when I read online content, particularly blogs. I find that many people write so much stuff online in a very stream-of-conscious style, or it’s just as if they were talking to you face-to-face, and it’s obvious that they don’t go back and re-read or use spell checkers, and that drives me crazy! In my own quest for perfection, I force it on others, and yet your student insightfully acknowledges that flaws are what make us real. Good for her.

    • It is an interesting perspective and one that requires adjustment for me to see. I also want published content (and I include blogs) to be well-written. I want to read good writing too. Whatever that means 🙂

  5. Your student’s view also made me think. I hate to see errors in text because I equate it to laziness but, of course, we’re all guilty of that!

    • I tend to see it as laziness as well. Sometimes it isn’t, and then there’s the difference between flaws and errors, the former I think being more what she was looking for.

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