‘DIVORCE’ appeared for the first time, along with its companion piece, ‘DEAD,’ on Kanye West’s Instagram in March 2022. Both poems were posted in the midst of the fallout from the end of his marriage to Kim Kardashian. Readers who have knowledge of Kanye West’s personal life are likely to find themselves easily relating the lines of this two-part poem to his personal life.
‘DIVORCE’ by Kanye West is a two-part poem that catalogs the various emotions and experiences that divorce can be compared to.
Throughout this poem, Kanye West compares divorce to a number of other emotionally and physically taxing experiences. This includes suffocating, getting nails hammered through one’s palms, losing control over one’s children, having “Covid” and not being able to do anything about it, and more. The poem concludes with what appears to be a direct allusion to the people involved in West’s deteriorating relationship with his now ex-wife Kim Kardashian.
You can read the full poem here.
Structure and Form
‘DIVORCE’ by Kanye West is a two-part poem that is divided into one set of fifteen lines and another set of twenty lines. The poem is written in free verse. This means that the poet did not make use of a specific rhyme scheme or metrical pattern. Despite this, anaphora provides the poem with a clear structure. The word “Divorce” appears at the beginning of the first fourteen lines of part I as well as the first fifteen lines of part II. Then, the poet utilizes “You’re” at the beginning of lines sixteen-nineteen of this part.
The poem was first published on West’s Instagram. The text is divided into two sections underneath a bold, red title. Some lines are quite long; for example, in the second part, West appears to be linking together multiple lines with larger spaces in between them.
Throughout this piece, West makes use of several literary devices. These include but are not limited to:
- Simile: occurs when the poet compares to unrelated things using the word “like” or “as.” Similes fill this poem. There are fourteen examples in the first part.
- Epistrophe: can be seen when the poet repeats the same word or phrase at the end of multiple lines. For example, “creating” at the end of lines thirteen and fifteen in part I and “vegetable” at the end of lines seventeen and eighteen of part II.
- Repetition: repeats an image, word, phrase, structure, or more within their poem. In this case, west repeats the word “divorce numerous times throughout the piece. Additionally, the first section uses “Divorce feels like you’re” three times and “Divorce feels like your” five times.
- Enjambment: occurs when the poet cuts off a line before its natural stopping point. For example, the transition between lines three and four and lines five and six of the second part.
- Imagery: can be seen with the poet uses especially effective examples and descriptions. For example, “Divorce feels like nails in your hand.”
Divorce feels like full blown Covid
Divorce feels like heavy breathing
Divorce feels like suffocating
The first part of Kanye West’s poem ‘Divorce,’ begins with examples of anaphora. Throughout the fifteen lines, West uses the same style of phrase (a variation of “Divorce feels like”) fourteen lines. This is continued in the second part, but it is far more prominent in the fifteen lines that begin the poem. West provides readers with fourteen ways that divorce can make you feel. He mentions Covid, running through a glass wall, being bullied, being beaten up, feeling like your soul is dragged over coals, rolling your ankles at the Super Bowl, getting your kids taken from you, and more.
Some of these similes are easier to understand and more intense than others. But, throughout, West’s use of similes allows readers to associate divorce, something that not everyone will have experienced, with other unpleasant, traumatizing, and emotionally taxing experiences.
His various references suggest that upon the finalization of his divorce from Kim Kardashian, West felt like he was suffocating, being shot and then getting stuck in traffic, and waiting for something that’s never going to happen. Throughout these lines, readers should note West’s creativity in selecting related but surprising images. For example, the juxtaposition between a doctor who doesn’t “know shit” (and the feelings of fear and desperation this might bring up) next to the image of “your kids…snatched from your control.”
Although the similes are quite different, both suggest a lack of control over something critical in one’s life. Another great example of the same emotional landscape can be seen in the first line when the writer references “full-blown Covid.” Again, this is a reference that suggests West feels like his future is out of his control.
The first part of the poem ends with reference to suffocating, heavy breathing, and then the line “barely breathing.” The short two-word line stands out against the previous, differently structured similes. But, it is just as effective as his previous examples of figurative language in that it suggests a feeling one can’t control as a result of a divorce that the speaker feels is out of his control.
Divorce feels like you’re recieving a spiritual beating every evening
Divorce feels like slower than paint and dryer
Divorce feels like nails in your head
Part II of ‘Divorce’ feels slightly different than the first part. But, the writer continues to use lines that begin with the word “divorce.” Again, he compares divorces to experiences that readers may be more familiar with. This includes working overtime all week and then not getting any time off for the weekend, feeling like your teeth are being pulled out against your will, and feeling like you can’t sit or stand.
Throughout the stanza, the reader should take note of West’s use of pauses in the middle of the lines. These are blank spaces that are wider than the traditional distance between one word, or one sentence, and the next. A writer may choose to use this type of spacing for several different reasons. In the case of this contemporary poem, it’s likely that West was using them to indicate pauses in his own speech and the emotional relevance of the lines (rather than use traditional punctuation, something the poem is lacking).
For example, in line four, where there are two long pauses between the phrase is “Divorce feels like you’ve been set on fire,” For your truth,” and “Then labeled a liar.” These pauses give readers a split second longer to analyze what they have just read and indicate that the line has greater emotional weight.
Divorce feels walking in on a bride and your best man
Divorce feels like you can’t Sit on stand
…Michael Jackson said it best
You’re a vegetable
You’re a vegetable
You’re the real Cosby
Not a Huxtable
Just as was seen in the first part of this piece, West juxtaposes more physically painful and more psychologically painful similes. Some of the things he references, such as getting nails driven into your hands, are physically painful. While others, like “walking in on your bride and your best man,” are emotionally painful.
Divorce, West continues, feels like a kind of purgatory between staying and leaving and being able to breathe and being suffocated. He says that it feels like you gave “everyone away, and you don’t have the right to have anything to say.”
Here, readers may draw comparisons between this poem and the companion peace with which it was posted, ‘DEAD.’ In the companion poem, West indicates that he felt out of control and “dead” during a period of his life. Here, he is once again indicating that he has lost control of his life and that he is not himself “anymore.” In lines seventeen and eighteen, West repeats the line “You’re a vegetable.” This is an allusion to the Michael Jackson song ‘Wanna be Starin’ Somethin’’ in which he sings:
You’re a vegetable (You’re a vegetable)
You’re a vegetable (You’re a vegetable)
Still they hate you (Still they hate you)
West also alludes to The Cosby Show at the end of this poem, mentioning Theo Huxtable, played by Bill Cosby. Here, West may be alluding to the now apparent distinction between Cosby’s character on his long-running television series and who he was in real life. It’s possible that these lines were aimed at Pete Davidson, who West also attacked in his song ‘Eazy.’
It is likely that Kanye West wrote this poem in order to air his feelings in regard to his recent divorce from his now ex-wife Kim Kardashian. The poem is filled with figurative language that alludes to the impact of divorce in his personal life.
The poem was likely written in order to share his feelings in regard to his divorce and how it has affected him on a deeply personal level. Throughout the thirty-four lines of the poem, West compares divorce to a number of different experiences, some of which are physically painful and others that are emotionally taxing.
It is likely that Kanye West wrote the poem sometime around the beginning of March 2022, although it is not entirely clear when the lines were penned. This piece, along with his companion, ‘DEAD’ were posted on West’s Instagram in early March 2022 to mixed responses.
Readers should also consider exploring some related poetry. For example:
- ‘The Difficulty that is Marriage’ by Paul Durcan – explores themes of marriage, relationships, love, and dedication
- ‘The Ache of Marriage’ by Denise Levertov – explores how difficult marriage can be, with Levertov arguing it is a ‘joy[less]’, painful affair.
- ‘The Broken Home‘ by James Merrill – is the story of the poet’s broken home itself. Merrill delves deep into the past thinking about his own house, his parent’s divorce, and the effect it had on his life.