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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Wanna critique a poem?

    This being a forum full of (generally) insightful and clever people, I thought I'd ask for some feedback on my most recent poem. There may or may not be others offered for the dissection table in future.

    "Empress"

    Head lifted, something in her eyes
    Magnetic suddenly
    Queen of her realm,
    Brightness in death,
    I find her in the red marks
    The dissatisfaction of it all

    The source of nothing,
    Scissors bright
    A firebrandís earnestness
    I trust her judgement,
    Not sharpness but honesty,
    Trust her perception
    Not contempt but clarity
    Often so vindictive to me

    She has nothing to gain
    No longing anyway
    Sheís a fortress of books,
    Or thatís her office anyway
    She has nothing to lose,
    Power unshakeable
    I trust her always anyway

    Passion to point out flaws,
    She likes to make me cry
    To my defense now
    You chose right my girl
    She likes when I give up,
    Donít you give up now,
    You can see what heís doing
    See the flaws

    Directed outward,
    I donít know her suddenly,
    See what heís doing
    See it, walk away
    My sister is his queen,
    You are stronger than this,
    You can do better
    I have seen it true
    You know youíve proved me wrong,
    Glittered so bright,
    Do it again
    True to yourself
    Not even I want the control he gave

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    Default Re: Wanna critique a poem?

    So beautiful, you are a good poet)

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    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: Wanna critique a poem?

    Quote Originally Posted by fionabell View Post
    So beautiful, you are a good poet)
    Thank you

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    Default Re: Wanna critique a poem?

    Quote Originally Posted by AuthorGirl View Post
    Thank you
    That was a spambot, just so you know.

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    Default Re: Wanna critique a poem?

    Hey there! I read your poem. And I have some thoughts. They're fairly critical thoughts, because I'm a big believer in helping people improve. A lot of people, when they submit work for general critique, are more interested in praise than they are in improving. If that's you, awesome. Nothing wrong with that. But that's not what's below. It's all well-meant, and offered in the genuine spirit of wanting to help you be a better poet. But it's more critique than praise. Just a fair warning.

    Spoiler
    Show

    My first impression is that it's quite muddled, both in terms of form and content. Writing is about choices. And this feels like you wrote it down without thinking super hard about it, and didn't give it a really careful, critical look or any re-writes.

    I'll start with the easiest part to discuss: grammar. Generally speaking, poetry should follow the conventions of normal prose grammar, and any departure from those conventions should serve a purpose within the piece.

    The only consistent exception to this guideline is the normal poetic convention of capitalizing the first leter of each line. You should always do that, unless there's a good reason not to.

    So, other than that, you should use commas and periods and capital letters where you would normally do so. The end of a line is a sort of 'implied pause' where you can imagine a rest long enough for the reader to move their eyes to the next line. It's not as strong a pause as a comma, and certainly not as strong as a period, but the implied pause can be used to control the pace and energy of your language.

    In this piece, sometimes you use commas and sometimes you don't and the end result feels sloppy and incomplete, more like you just forgot to use consistent grammar rather than made a series of choices.

    Example:

    Head lifted, something in her eyes
    Magnetic suddenly

    So if you just read this as though it were prose you get "Head lifted, something in her eyes magnetic suddenly." Which is fine, if that's what you meant.If you wanted there to be suddenly something in her eyes that's magnetic. But if 'something in her eyes' and 'magnetic suddenly' are part of two different thoughts, then you need to put something at the end of the line to separate them.

    And this gets even more important when you add the next line.

    Head lifted, something in her eyes
    Magnetic suddenly
    Queen of her realm,

    So. Is the something in her eyes suddenly magnetic? Or is she suddenly queen of her realm? It is possible for you to have structured it that way so that the word suddenly belongs to both images, but again, that would have to be a deliberate choice, and this, combined with the rest, makes it seem less a choice than a lack of attention to detail.

    So the first thing I would do is go through it and decide where the pauses are, where the stops are, where the thoughts and images start and stop, and use grammar to control that. Write it all out as though it were prose and use commas and periods to control the flow of ideas. And then break it into lines as seems to make sense to you. The act of hanging a contiguous sentence across more than one line is called 'enjambment' and is the art of using that implied pause at the end of the line as a further control over pace and energy and should sparingly and carefully, if at all.

    Second. Slightly more complex. You know that old writing rule 'show don't tell'? That applies to poetry as much as it does to prose. What you've given us here is a lot of abstract language and non-images. And so the overal effect is quite weak. Figure out the things you want to communicate and figure out what those things look like, feel like, sound like, smell like, taste like, whatever. "Fortress of books" is about the only actual poetic phrase/image in the piece. Everything else is probably too abstract.

    Like, don't tell us you trust her judgement. SHOW us something she does or says that shows her judgement. Or show us something you do that implies that trust. If she likes to make you cry, SHOW us something she did, and then show us your tears, and show us her enjoyment. Same goes for most of what's here. Sharpness vs honesty. Likes it when you give up. Contempt and clarity. All of these things should be shown in language that invokes one or more senses rather than just presented to us as facts.

    And you might say that if you have to do all that, show all that, then you'll basically wind up just writing a story, and I'd agree with you. It's almost always easier to communicate in prose rather than poetry. Poetry is hard.

    Third thing is structure. Free verse gives you almost unlimited freedom in terms of line length and rhythm and rhyme scheme, but it also means that you have a lot of choices to make. You write a sonnet and most of the choices are made for you. But in the absence of an established verse form, you're really inventing your own verse form for this specific piece. The poet TS Eliott once said that no verse is truly free for the poet who wants to do a good job.

    So the way you lay out the piece should reflect what you're trying to accomplish. Short lines gather energy, longer lines release it. Harsh consonants should be used for harsh concepts, and softer ones the opposite. Each stanza should have a clear division. If you vary the line length, make it obvious that you're doing so on purpose.

    Lastly, and more subjective: I don't know what you're trying to tell me here. I mean, sure there's a woman and she's all these things, and there's a guy in there at the end, but I don't know what this poem is ABOUT. What it is you think of this person, who they are to you, and why. The personality you describe don't seem to add up to anything specific, and some of them feel contradictory, but there's no sense here that you're trying to say that your feelings for her are confused or contradictory. You should take a step back and work from the outside in. What are you trying to say, what are the specific elements of that vision, and how can you communicate them in concrete, sense-based language?
    L5R4E - The Spoils of War / OOC / Chargen

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    Default Re: Wanna critique a poem?

    Quote Originally Posted by An Enemy Spy View Post
    That was a spambot, just so you know.
    Well, don't I feel stupid now

    Quote Originally Posted by truemane View Post
    Hey there! I read your poem. And I have some thoughts. They're fairly critical thoughts, because I'm a big believer in helping people improve. A lot of people, when they submit work for general critique, are more interested in praise than they are in improving. If that's you, awesome. Nothing wrong with that. But that's not what's below. It's all well-meant, and offered in the genuine spirit of wanting to help you be a better poet. But it's more critique than praise. Just a fair warning.
    No problem. My own fair warning: this'll be a wall of text.

    My first impression is that it's quite muddled, both in terms of form and content. Writing is about choices. And this feels like you wrote it down without thinking super hard about it, and didn't give it a really careful, critical look or any re-writes.
    That's the fourth draft.

    I'll start with the easiest part to discuss: grammar. Generally speaking, poetry should follow the conventions of normal prose grammar, and any departure from those conventions should serve a purpose within the piece.

    The only consistent exception to this guideline is the normal poetic convention of capitalizing the first leter of each line. You should always do that, unless there's a good reason not to.

    So, other than that, you should use commas and periods and capital letters where you would normally do so. The end of a line is a sort of 'implied pause' where you can imagine a rest long enough for the reader to move their eyes to the next line. It's not as strong a pause as a comma, and certainly not as strong as a period, but the implied pause can be used to control the pace and energy of your language.

    In this piece, sometimes you use commas and sometimes you don't and the end result feels sloppy and incomplete, more like you just forgot to use consistent grammar rather than made a series of choices.

    Example:

    Head lifted, something in her eyes
    Magnetic suddenly

    So if you just read this as though it were prose you get "Head lifted, something in her eyes magnetic suddenly." Which is fine, if that's what you meant.If you wanted there to be suddenly something in her eyes that's magnetic. But if 'something in her eyes' and 'magnetic suddenly' are part of two different thoughts, then you need to put something at the end of the line to separate them.

    And this gets even more important when you add the next line.

    Head lifted, something in her eyes
    Magnetic suddenly
    Queen of her realm,

    So. Is the something in her eyes suddenly magnetic? Or is she suddenly queen of her realm? It is possible for you to have structured it that way so that the word suddenly belongs to both images, but again, that would have to be a deliberate choice, and this, combined with the rest, makes it seem less a choice than a lack of attention to detail.

    So the first thing I would do is go through it and decide where the pauses are, where the stops are, where the thoughts and images start and stop, and use grammar to control that. Write it all out as though it were prose and use commas and periods to control the flow of ideas. And then break it into lines as seems to make sense to you. The act of hanging a contiguous sentence across more than one line is called 'enjambment' and is the art of using that implied pause at the end of the line as a further control over pace and energy and should sparingly and carefully, if at all.
    That explains some things, actually! Particularly the bits about enjambment, comma use, etc. I tend to use a comma as a link, not a stronger pause, and an "unadorned" line break as more of a complete stop. So yes, it is a deliberate choice, but maybe the reasoning behind it is flawed. To use the same example you did:

    Magnetic suddenly
    Queen of her realm

    The ideas are linked, which is why they're next to each other, but not closely enough to use a comma (according to the "rules" I was working by): she is suddenly magnetic. She was always queen of her realm, but it's suddenly noticeable because of the change in her presence.

    Writing it out as if it were prose is something I never would have thought of and will have to try. Thank you very much.

    Second. Slightly more complex. You know that old writing rule 'show don't tell'? That applies to poetry as much as it does to prose. What you've given us here is a lot of abstract language and non-images. And so the overal effect is quite weak. Figure out the things you want to communicate and figure out what those things look like, feel like, sound like, smell like, taste like, whatever. "Fortress of books" is about the only actual poetic phrase/image in the piece. Everything else is probably too abstract.
    "Abstract language and non-images," I'll have to remember that. I can see where you got it, and I'll try working in some more concrete images and so forth.

    Like, don't tell us you trust her judgement. SHOW us something she does or says that shows her judgement. Or show us something you do that implies that trust. If she likes to make you cry, SHOW us something she did, and then show us your tears, and show us her enjoyment. Same goes for most of what's here. Sharpness vs honesty. Likes it when you give up. Contempt and clarity. All of these things should be shown in language that invokes one or more senses rather than just presented to us as facts.
    Again, I think you've hit on something . . . here's the only thing I can really say to it: I trust her judgement because (as I think I said) she has nothing to lose and nothing to gain; her position is secure, so she doesn't need to play games to keep it.

    And you might say that if you have to do all that, show all that, then you'll basically wind up just writing a story, and I'd agree with you. It's almost always easier to communicate in prose rather than poetry. Poetry is hard.
    It is hard!!

    Third thing is structure. Free verse gives you almost unlimited freedom in terms of line length and rhythm and rhyme scheme, but it also means that you have a lot of choices to make. You write a sonnet and most of the choices are made for you. But in the absence of an established verse form, you're really inventing your own verse form for this specific piece. The poet TS Eliott once said that no verse is truly free for the poet who wants to do a good job.

    So the way you lay out the piece should reflect what you're trying to accomplish. Short lines gather energy, longer lines release it. Harsh consonants should be used for harsh concepts, and softer ones the opposite. Each stanza should have a clear division. If you vary the line length, make it obvious that you're doing so on purpose.
    Ooh, I'll be using this advice a lot. Line length and consonants especially.

    Lastly, and more subjective: I don't know what you're trying to tell me here. I mean, sure there's a woman and she's all these things, and there's a guy in there at the end, but I don't know what this poem is ABOUT. What it is you think of this person, who they are to you, and why. The personality you describe don't seem to add up to anything specific, and some of them feel contradictory, but there's no sense here that you're trying to say that your feelings for her are confused or contradictory. You should take a step back and work from the outside in. What are you trying to say, what are the specific elements of that vision, and how can you communicate them in concrete, sense-based language?
    I could break it down for you if you like
    Last edited by AuthorGirl; 2017-12-12 at 03:06 PM. Reason: formatting

  7. - Top - End - #7
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    Default Re: Wanna critique a poem?

    I was so pleased at your response! I love talking about poetry, but my experiences offering critique (even when it's asked for) have not been great. So it was a genuine pleasure to read actual engagement rather than defensiveness.

    Some further thoughts.

    It's problematic to throw around the word 'should' when it comes to art, and I can sound certain, but I can never account for the various ways other people read things, so you should take all my advice, and everyone's, with a grain of salt.

    But the one rule I've never found an exception to is that everything you do should make a point, even if your point is there is no point.

    So while you can use whatever grammar you want, and my opinion is for sure not the final word, it's safest to use grammar the way most people expect to see it. And that makes any deviation from the norm meaningful.

    And in terms of concrete images and sense-based language, that's the real trick of poetry. That's why we have similes and metaphors and synecdoche and all the whole shopping list of figures of speech. You're talking about some skinny guy. You could just say he's 6 foot seven and weighs 125 pounds, but that doesn't sound right. So you say "Bill the flagpole." We all know what a flagpole is. So you say that and we get it.

    So when you're talking about trusting her judgement, find the core, the absolute bottom of the emotional pyramid reason WHY you trust her judgement, and wrap that up in a sense-image.

    Is it because she's secure? Well then she crafts her own shiny armour whispers truth from the helm.

    Because she's not involved? Then the border of silence between you is her strength,.

    Or has no good reason to lie? Then she always admits she cut down the cherry tree.

    Or doesn't play games? Then she never steps to the table, never rolls the dice, holds her cards close, never draws to an inside straight, whichever.

    And the more of these you can cram into a single image, and the smaller, shorter, more compressed that image is (while still retaining clarity) the better.

    That's the game of poetry. You figure out the emotional truth of what you're trying to say and you put it into words that involve the senses.

    And it bears mentioning that all of the above carries the clause "All things being equal." If you think up a slamming line that just kills it, you don't need to erase it because it's not a concrete sense-image. All things being equal, sense imagery is better than abstraction. All things being equal, compression, complexity and clarity are your goals for each image. Etc.

    And, of course, sometimes all of the above takes a back seat to 'it feels right.' Every poem need a sprinkling of 'it feels right' to make it not a robotic exercise in craft. But too much 'it feels right' and you're just navel gazing.

    And finally, in terms of structure and stanzas. It helps to work from the outside in, especially once you're got a draft or two down and you have a good idea of what you're trying to say.

    Start with the base premise: what am I SAYING? What am I DOING? And then each stanza is like a little chapter of a little story that should progress the reader through the varying stages of what you're trying to say to arrive at whatever conclusion.

    You don't necessarily need to be able to justify every single thing in the poem, but you should be able to articulate why each stanza exists, what the line lengths are doing for you, why you chose a given rhythm (or lack thereof).

    Anyway. That's enough rambling.

    Best of luck. And don't stop writing. More poetry is good.
    L5R4E - The Spoils of War / OOC / Chargen

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    Default Re: Wanna critique a poem?

    Quote Originally Posted by truemane View Post
    I was so pleased at your response! I love talking about poetry, but my experiences offering critique (even when it's asked for) have not been great. So it was a genuine pleasure to read actual engagement rather than defensiveness.
    I really appreciate your responses as well. It's fairly clear that you're actually putting time and thought into them, which is nice.

    Some further thoughts.

    It's problematic to throw around the word 'should' when it comes to art, and I can sound certain, but I can never account for the various ways other people read things, so you should take all my advice, and everyone's, with a grain of salt.

    But the one rule I've never found an exception to is that everything you do should make a point, even if your point is there is no point.

    So while you can use whatever grammar you want, and my opinion is for sure not the final word, it's safest to use grammar the way most people expect to see it. And that makes any deviation from the norm meaningful.
    That makes sense. Being able to say more by following the rules most of the time.

    And in terms of concrete images and sense-based language, that's the real trick of poetry. That's why we have similes and metaphors and synecdoche and all the whole shopping list of figures of speech. You're talking about some skinny guy. You could just say he's 6 foot seven and weighs 125 pounds, but that doesn't sound right. So you say "Bill the flagpole." We all know what a flagpole is. So you say that and we get it.

    So when you're talking about trusting her judgement, find the core, the absolute bottom of the emotional pyramid reason WHY you trust her judgement, and wrap that up in a sense-image.

    Is it because she's secure? Well then she crafts her own shiny armour whispers truth from the helm.

    Because she's not involved? Then the border of silence between you is her strength,.

    Or has no good reason to lie? Then she always admits she cut down the cherry tree.

    Or doesn't play games? Then she never steps to the table, never rolls the dice, holds her cards close, never draws to an inside straight, whichever.

    And the more of these you can cram into a single image, and the smaller, shorter, more compressed that image is (while still retaining clarity) the better.

    That's the game of poetry. You figure out the emotional truth of what you're trying to say and you put it into words that involve the senses.
    Oh snap, I think I have to copy this out, actually. I'm kinda figuring this stuff out as I go along, so this closer look at communicating emotions is really helpful.

    And it bears mentioning that all of the above carries the clause "All things being equal." If you think up a slamming line that just kills it, you don't need to erase it because it's not a concrete sense-image. All things being equal, sense imagery is better than abstraction. All things being equal, compression, complexity and clarity are your goals for each image. Etc.

    And, of course, sometimes all of the above takes a back seat to 'it feels right.' Every poem need a sprinkling of 'it feels right' to make it not a robotic exercise in craft. But too much 'it feels right' and you're just navel gazing.

    And finally, in terms of structure and stanzas. It helps to work from the outside in, especially once you're got a draft or two down and you have a good idea of what you're trying to say.

    Start with the base premise: what am I SAYING? What am I DOING? And then each stanza is like a little chapter of a little story that should progress the reader through the varying stages of what you're trying to say to arrive at whatever conclusion.

    You don't necessarily need to be able to justify every single thing in the poem, but you should be able to articulate why each stanza exists, what the line lengths are doing for you, why you chose a given rhythm (or lack thereof).
    More methodical process. Okay.

    Anyway. That's enough rambling.

    Best of luck. And don't stop writing. More poetry is good.
    Your rambling was helpful, no worries.

    And thank you!

  9. - Top - End - #9
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    Default Re: Wanna critique a poem?

    You're very welcome. It was a pleasure talking with you. Feel free to PM me if you ever have any questions.
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