Poetry Feedback – # 1

Alright, when I put out a call to poets I got two fast responses.  So, first off, a big thank you to the two open minded poets.  This will be the first review, the second will soon follow.

Before I get to the review, I wanted to reply to part of the comment that Shawn L Bird left on the “Poets” post when she submitted her poem.

“Practising is the only way to get there. Reading other poets and writing poetry is the only way to improve. Modelling what you see and stretching for your unique view requires writing, writing, writing.”

I have to respectfully disagree with this statement.  Yes, getting the words out is extremely important, the more a person writes the better.  Absolutely.  However, writing in a vacuum does not improve one’s ability at all.  That’s like writing a paper for an English teacher and never getting graded (Yes Shawn, I read your profile.  No, I’m not a stalker).  The only way to truly improve is to be questioned, to be challenged.  Without getting honest feedback, a writer will reach a certain point and become static.  The only way to grow and progress is to be constantly questioned, to be dragged through the mud, to stumble and fall and get back up.  How can anyone raise the bar if there is no bar?

That’s why I have a problem with so many of the poetry sites I see on WordPress.  There’s a whole lot of mutual masturbation going on, stroking each other’s egos, and not a lot of constructive feedback.

Ok, that rant out of the way, on the to review!

 

Poem- The Stroll (April 30, 2014)

Like two hookers
in black vinyl trench coats
the crows stroll between the yellow lines
each watching the traffic
with one jaundiced eye.

http://www.shawnbird,com/poem-the-stroll

 

I actually really like this poem, which makes it slightly harder to provide feedback.  That said, I think anyone reviewing work for someone else should always have a couple good things to say and a couple of suggestions.

Good things:

Despite the length there are quite a few good things to say about this poem.  I think the basic premise is a very clever simile, crows are like hookers.  I also like the the word choices, “black vinyl trench coats” and “jaundiced eye.”  Those are very specific images that are used very well.  There’s also an implied rhyme between ‘line’ and ‘eye’ which is nice, it caps off the ending really well.  It makes the poem feel complete rather than just trailing off.  There’s also interesting color usage, ‘yellow’ and ‘jaundiced’ (which is a yellowing of the skin).  Overall, I think there are a lot of things done well for such a short poem.  I mean, it’s basically one line so that’s a lot of technique per word.

Suggestions:

First, I think we’re missing some punctuation.  Many poets don’t punctuate much (or at all) and I think that’s a mistake.  It’s common for them to use line breaks instead of commas and periods but that can lead to confusion for the reader.  Let’s rearrange the poem a bit:

Like two hookers in black vinyl trench coats the crows stroll between the yellow lines each watching the traffic with one jaundiced eye.

Yeah, that’s confusing.  Now, let’s play with the line breaks/commas:

Like two hookers, in black vinyl trench coats the crows stroll between the yellow lines, each watching the traffic with one jaundiced eye.

That is one of the ways potential readers might get confused reading this poem.  Are the hookers in the trench coats or the crows?  That’s why I think punctuation is so important.

Secondly, this is a very clever simile with good word choice, but that’s it.  What am I supposed to feel when I read this?  Do I feel bad for hookers?  Do I feel bad for crows because they walk the street like hookers?  The word ‘hooker’ has a lot of connotations,  bad, weird, gross, sick, lost, etc.  ‘Hooker’ is ambiguous in this context.  Jaundiced is an excellent word and definitely conveys a sense of sickness.  But what is this poem saying?  Crows and hookers walk the street sickly?

Basically, I think this is an excellent start to a poem.  It’s smart, it’s interesting… but it doesn’t really go anywhere.  I read it and my interest is hooked… and it’s over.  It starts to say something that intrigues me but then doesn’t finish the statement.

On the other hand, it could be argued that this poem is just a snap shot of a specific moment in time, kind of a pseudo-imagist poem, but if that’s the case I want more details.  Is it daytime or nighttime?  Is this in the city or on a country road?  Is it rainy and that’s why there’s the vinyl coat line?  Are there cigarette butts in the gutter?  Is there trash fluttering around when the cars pass?  Are the crows/hookers young or old, naively optimistic or worn out?  Are they looking for trash to eat, John’s for money?  What does it smell like?

I feel like this poem is an excellent nugget to start with, it’s smart, interesting, and has good word choices.  There are so many cool places it could go from here.  I want to see where it goes from here.

 

Hopefully this has been an entertaining and possibly helpful review.  And again, a big thank you to Shawn L. Bird for allowing me to review her poem here.  Check out Shawn L. Bird’s website for more of her writing.

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One thought on “Poetry Feedback – # 1

  1. I too enjoyed this poem and was surprised by the depth of your critique. You offered a truly constructive analysis and several excellent ideas for further development. You should teach!

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