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Free Verse: James Arthur

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 11, 2013 - In a few jagged couplets, this month’s poem explores the line between taking life’s forbidden, often dangerous, fruits and ruthless ambition. 

James Arthur


I eat what’s put in front of me,
as all great men do. Should you eat shark? I know

some wouldn’t, but I do, if it’s there.
Scorpions too, and their stingers; swallowing a scorpion

won’t poison you. Old-time glue-makers
made glue of old horses, and I

make use when I can.
Someone put his wife in front of me; someone else,

his mediocrity. What I know, I swear by—
feed yourself, or die.

Arthur published his debut poetry collection, Charms Against Lightning, in 2012 (Copper Canyon). His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The American Poetry Review, Rattle, Poetry, The New Republic, Verse Daily, and Poetry Daily. He is currently a Hodder Fellow at Princeton University.

To learn more about River Styx, click here. Richard Newman, River Styx editor for 18 years, is the author of two full-length poetry collections, "Borrowed Towns" and "Domestic Fugues." He also co-directs the River Styx at Tavern of  Fine Arts reading series.

Arthur is one of three poets reading at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 18 at the Tavern of Fine Arts, 313 Belt Ave. There is a $4-$5 cover charge for the event. To find out more, go to www.riverstyx.org/events/index.php