SST5 ROUGH draft: ‘Smoking Kills’ – Josh Judson

28 Apr

Hi, this is my first blog post. This is a poem about a bad habit and self destruction in general. Just edited it a bit. I think it’s just under two minutes, so I’d like help with:

-what can be expanded on/made more of?

-just generally what works/what doesn’t.


fire at will,




It seems to me

that these generalisations

Are more easily formed

in hindsight.


So when you ask

‘why do you smoke?’

I clutch at straws.


I have not 

that nostalgic insight

that comes with time.


But I do understand

the irony of ‘going out for some

fresh air’,

I understand 

why I dread stairs.


I understand

and I do care

about the carcinogens 

that are making my lungs threadbare.


Maybe you’re right 

and I am just trying

to look cool.


Maybe it’s self-destructive impulse.


Or maybe, for the first

time in my life,

I have control.


And when I say

‘I need a fag’

I’m lying and it is,

in fact,

the fag that needs me.


I light him up,

and he shines brighter than

all the overzealous


similes ever scribbled by 

love-drunk teenage hands.


I’ll keep him safe,

hide him from 

wind and rain.

He gives himself readily

so that I might forget my pain.


The world is an ashtray.


I have but one life.

And I’ll live it, fag in mouth.

Life’s too short

And I want to drag it out.


We treat others how

we have learned to be treated.

And the action I have

most repeated

Is one of destruction,

of fire,

of inevitable pain.

So go on, 

ask me why I smoke again.


5 Responses to “SST5 ROUGH draft: ‘Smoking Kills’ – Josh Judson”

  1. Matt April 28, 2013 at 11:32 pm #

    I like the recognizable sardonic wit of the smoker in this.
    I also like ‘I know why I dread the stairs’.
    I like the being protective of your cigarette, like a child.

    I’m not sure about the Kurt Cobain reference.
    I’d have another look at ‘clutching with straws’ – with the subject matter an easily replaceable cliche – make it all about smoking – clutching at burning tab ends or something.

    I like the challenge of the piece and how concise it is, and the effective simplicity of the rhyming. Nice.

    Look forward to meeting you new kid,

  2. Patrick April 30, 2013 at 7:53 pm #

    I really dig the overall tone in this – like Matt says, the sardonic feel is very strong and it gives the piece a lot of character.

    A few criticisms: I love the line about making your lungs threadbare (and I love how effortlessly it folds into the rhyme), but “clutch at straws” is more cliché. There’s also this long passage:

    Maybe you’re right

    and I am just trying

    to look cool.

    Maybe it’s a self-destructive impulse.

    Or maybe, for the first

    time in my life,

    I have control.

    This to me seems almost unnecessary, because it doesn’t feel unique to this particular smoker – I’ve heard those reasons cited a dozen times as motivations for smoking by teachers and social workers and concerned friends. Whereas it seems to me that in the stanzas that follow, you say the same thing but in a more interesting, more personal way – “maybe it’s a self destructive impulse” is quite boiler-plate clinical, but “And the action I have most repeated/is one of destruction” communicates the same thing but also adds loads of interesting connotations about the background of the narrator. You might want to experiment with shortening that passage, or even cutting it out altogether.

    One final thing – “It’s better to burn out than to fade away” was actually initially from a Neil Young song, “My My Hey Hey”, and referred to Johnny Rotten; Kurt Cobain just quoted it. Not exactly a cardinal sin or anything, but I know if I was sitting in the audience I’d go totally wild for a piece that named that reference correctly.

    But yeah, real nice piece overall, looking forwards to hearing it spoken.

    • mouthypoets May 6, 2013 at 9:29 pm #

      Fantastic. Witty, fun and oh so honest. Thank you for giving me the pleasure of reading it.

      Jennifer Maloney

    • mouthypoets May 7, 2013 at 10:23 pm #

      ah!! never trust the internet to give accurate citations! I wasn’t happy with the Kurt Cobain bit anyway, but thanks for the feedback and the correction. As a perfectionist and pedant, I appreciate it 🙂 – Josh

  3. mouthypoets May 18, 2013 at 9:29 am #

    Nice work here
    I like the flow of this and a lot of the lines i.e the self destructive impulse. I think there’s alot to stretch out from this line alone

    However I liked even more when you began to give the fag a persona. The stop smoking/why i smoke etc poems been done a lot, that’s not to mean you shouldn’t do it. I just wonder if you do it differently. Which could be interesting. Is there a way to write this from the perspective of the cigarette and still convey the same message you want to ? This could open up the poem a bit more. That being said I do like the current flow and agree with some of the comments the guys above said however as with any advice make sure you run it through your own filter as well. You created and birthed it; at the end you want to make sure the poem is still speaking in your voice and saying what you intend it to and has its own integrity

    Hope that helped


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