Poetry News

Patricia Lockwood 'Rape Joke' Poem Is World-Famous

By Harriet Staff


Patricia Lockwood's new poem, "Rape Joke," was published last week at The Awl, and was all over the internets in the hours following, i.e., it's gone viral, says Coldfront.

Patricia Lockwood’s long poem “Rape Joke,” published yesterday by Mark Bibbins at The Awl, received more than 10,000 Facebook “likes” within hours of being posted, according to a report in The Guardian. In The Guardian and all over social media, readers have been analyzing the deceptively accessible poem.

Prachi Gupta at Salon says the poem is strong enough to “end the rape joke debate.”

The poem’s popularity is also suggestive of serious crossover appeal; the Guardian raves, “If this is poetry, who wouldn’t want to read it more often?”

It should be noted that The Awl's Choire Sicha published a video of comedian Ever Mainard’s routine about “rape jokes that are hilarious” on July 13. The post references Kate Harding’s recent blog post “15 Rape Jokes That Work.”

The Guardian wrote at length about Lockwood's poem:

Much as she wants to be able to take what happened seriously and face the horror of it, she also recognises the power of humour. But you can't get to humour until you go through the pain first. This is why it take us a long time to get to the Pet Sounds bit at the end.

This is great tragi-comedy. Imagine if someone raped you and afterwards apologised and gave you a copy of Pet Sounds. Lockwood has the guts to joke that this in itself is possibly even worse than being raped. Again: clever. The deceit and betrayal represented by the act of rape are what is truly hurtful about the act. Throw in an unwanted Beach Boys album? Pure evil.

Lockwood later tweeted: "The real final line of Rape Joke is this. 'You don't ever have to write about it. But if you do, you can write about it any way you want.'" I take that to mean that you can joke about it too. But I wonder if she means that you only get the right to joke about it if it has happened to you?

Originally Published: July 29th, 2013