If I/Then You Dialectical Argument Poems

The following poems, written by students in an advanced poetry workshop at Illinois Wesleyan University, were inspired by Courtney Queeney’s “Back to the Body” (from Filibuster to Delay a Kiss (NY: Random House, 2007): 77), a poem that employs the dialectical back-and-forth between “I” and “you,” and culminates in, if not precisely a synthesis, a surprise.

* * *

“Excuses,” by Kristin Fields


Hero Worship



If I am a static radio, then you are the slap

of stiletto heals on a hardwood floor.  If

I am a generic clone, you are a cosmos spinning

creation.  If I am the whispering voice that prevents your

slumber, then you are my enemy territory.


If I am searching the screen for answers, then you are

the crystal ball I choose to ignore.  If I am the ball of grease

you choked on, you are my heart attack and stroke.  If I am

insecure in my self-image, then you are a child lost

among the clothes racks at Macy’s.


If I am everything you wish to be, then you

are the heat of locker room steam.


How did I fail to save you?



—Theresa Peters

* * *

More to come…

2 responses

19 02 2012
Six Approaches to Structuring a Poem « Structure & Surprise

[…] I handed out a copy of Nick Laird’s “Epithalamium,” and asked the participants to follow his “you vs. I” dialectic in their drafts.  Here are two wildly different takes on this […]

14 06 2017
Some Surprising Lesson Plans | Structure & Surprise

[…] If I/Then You Dialectical Argument Poems […]

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