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delph_ambi
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« Reply #30 on: August 08, 2009, 11:26:33 AM »

I'll be constructive -- promise! I think there are a number of poems on here I would like to crit. I'll make a start tomorrow afternoon, all things being equal.
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Pharosian
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« Reply #31 on: August 08, 2009, 01:07:26 PM »

Thanks Pharosian - just a quick a comment at the moment as I've got shed loads to do before I can come back to this
In the third stanza, I'm wondering how solace could be observed in the first place. Beauty, yes; solace, not so much.

Solace - something that gives comfort

I believe it is possible to seek solace from someone's eyes, some sign, and as it's a mirror they're seeking solace from their own eyes in the reflection but not finding it.

First, the line was "life's mirror observed" so I was (mistakenly, perhaps) thinking this was a metaphor for something on a grander scale than the mirror over the bathroom sink. I wasn't quite sure what "life's mirror" was, but it sounded good. I didn't take it as a literal silvered-glass mirror, yet at the same time, I wanted the possibility of what could be reflected back to mimic that of a "real" mirror. Apparently you meant a real-life small scale mirror, so maybe the term "life's mirror" is more confusing than enlightening.

Second, "they" is the third person plural pronoun used to refer to two or more persons or things previously referred to or easily identified. It is NOT a gender-neutral substitute for he or she, though it is now often used in this manner in deference to people who can't abide the former practice of using "he" to cover both genders.* I notice that you have edited your poem now and have chosen the female gender. That's terrific! But then in your answer above, why didn't you say, "...and as it's a mirror she's seeking solace from her own eyes in the reflection but not finding it"?

My suspicion is that the poem is really about you, and you're not female, so you're still conflicted about the pronoun. I could be way off base, though, and if I am, I apologize. Maybe it's just a bad habit.

The thing is, aside from all the grammar stuff, until you make it personal by bringing it down to one person, it doesn't have any power. As long as you keep your language couched in they and them and their, it's all distant. That alone is good enough reason to make this personal, to make it something that someone else can relate to. And as long as it's happening to some nebulous "them" over there, I don't think that's going to happen.

-----
* Non-fiction writers who want to stay on firm grammatical footing get around this problem by 1) alternating their usage of he and she in their writing, 2) using the phrase "he or she" instead of "he" or "they" or 3) construct sentences to avoid using a pronoun altogether (which can get awkward). A fourth, less commonly used way is to put a note in the Introduction of the book saying (essentially), "hey, I know what the PC issues are with using "he" but it's not meant to be sexist, so deal with it."
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Woody
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« Reply #32 on: August 08, 2009, 05:44:23 PM »

posting here has proven unwise. ed will keep your stuff after he bans you. only he knows why.
« Last Edit: January 29, 2011, 06:31:55 PM by Woody » Logged

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« Reply #33 on: August 08, 2009, 06:20:07 PM »

posting here has proven unwise. ed will keep your stuff after he bans you. only he knows why.
« Last Edit: January 29, 2011, 06:32:07 PM by Woody » Logged

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Pharosian
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« Reply #34 on: August 08, 2009, 11:23:15 PM »

It's obvious by now that the substitution of "they" for the appropriate 3rd person singular pronoun is a pet peeve of mine.  rolleyes  I'm glad that you don't seem to have taken offense at my curmudgeonly comments...

OK, I just went back through several weeks' worth of Cafe Doom Flash Challenges, and I see that delph uses only the occasional comma but in the main eschews punctuation. At the same time, she uses about half the words per line as your example here, and there is absolutely no ambiguity. One doesn't really need the marks to understand her poems--the stanzas provide necessary breaks. So forget I said to use punctuation, and just cut, cut, cut.

Quote
And there definitely was a reason I was obtuse about the gender - that being comments I've received in writing forums about pieces I've submitted where my writing has wholly come down on the side of a fictional stereotypical bloke's perspective, but for one reason or another it has been taken as my real world view - which is very surprising and extremely disheartening for a writer of fiction.

Did the people in the online poetry forums actually advise you not to be specific about the subject's gender? Or was that your solution based on their criticism? I think I may know what they were getting at, having seen examples of stories in other critique groups that were written in such a way that they seemed more like retellings of actual incidents than fiction. Maybe the names were changed, but there's a "feel" to real incidents or the way they're related that differs from fiction, at least in the hands of a beginner. Maybe they took your poems in this light, and thought you were expressing your actual views? I'm not sure the cure for that is to obscure the gender, though. I wish I were able to articulate this better, or give an example, but I stand by what I said in a post above; that the reader has to be able to identify with the subject of the poem. This is best done "one-on-one," as emotions are experienced by us as individuals.
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delph_ambi
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« Reply #35 on: August 09, 2009, 11:20:53 AM »

Pharosian's already given you a fabulous crit of this poem, so I'll go and attack a different one.

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delph_ambi
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« Reply #36 on: August 09, 2009, 11:38:23 AM »

This is far too wordy for poetry. You need to extract the essence and ditch the rest. I'll make some line by line suggestions.

Quite often I sit in my study, [delete 'quite often', and possibly 'sit in my study' too]
thinking about my past that has been. [delete 'that has been' (tautology)]
Not a thing I have control over, [reword to simplify, eg 'something I can't control']
just my life before, [never use the word 'just' other than in dialogue. It's always superfluous.]
and its permeating stink.
And I wonder. I wonder why I suffer this trauma; [I like repetition in poetry, but if you're going to use it, make a feature of it by using two separate lines]
this thing that’s my life before. [superfluous line]
And these thoughts are forever present, [keep 'these thoughts' and delete the rest]
bugging me, taunting me, [bug me, taunt me]
pushing me to the brink. [push me to the brink. Except that this is such a cliché you might want to drop it completely]
Contemplating the uncontemplatable [good idea, but I'm not sure how easy it is to say 'uncontemplatable']
and I wonder why I think, [I'd start a new stanza here. Delete 'and']
the thoughts I ought not consider, [drop 'the'. Use 'shouldn't' rather than 'ought not'. More natural sounding.]
the thoughts of what should have been. [this line needs to be combined somehow with the previous one, I think]
I try so hard to reconcile my history [delete 'so hard']
with the things as they are. [too abstract. All this stuff about thoughts and history would work better with concrete examples]
And occasionally, I fail, [delete 'and'. Consider using 'sometimes' rather than 'occasionally' to help with the meter]
this warranted duty unto myself, [weirdly formal wording which doesn't match the style of the rest of the poem]
but it’s the way things are, it is, [very, very, very wordy. cut, cut, cut]
— the way life is as it is. [in two lines you've got: it's it is is as it is. Terribly short and staccato sounds.]

And when they’re foremost in my thoughts, [delete 'and'. Who or what are 'they'?]
still pushing me to the brink. [cliché]
I look at the bottle before me, [if you need to state the position of the bottle, use 'in front of me' not the archaic 'before me'. Never use archaic language in poetry unless you're writing a period piece deliberately]
after my mind has turned to drink. [the rhyme with 'brink' is crude and intrusive.]
And savour every moment, [use I rather than and]
when my mind has been comfortably numbed. [Shades of Pink Floyd, though to be fair, I've used the phrase myself]
It’s a release from my torment ['It's' is weak. 'release from my torment' is an archaic cliché]
and although the mantra has been drummed

— into me [I'm not convinced by this formatting. It's fussy and unnecessary]

— that I’m killing myself, [ditto. And ditch the commas. Line breaks ARE commas. You rarely need additional ones.]

the path is already laid.
There’s nothing I can do to get off it, [find a better phrase than 'to get off it']
there’s nothing I can pay, [the last three lines of this stanza don't make sense. Anything that has the reader going 'eh?' and reading it through several times needs revising]
for my history and my life before,
things started going my way.

Am I forever having to follow this deep and cataclysmic rift;
the borderline between the now and my past that is as it is?[oh good lord.'that is as it is'. Nope. Find a way of excising all these tiny little words that pile up on top of each other and confuse the meaning.]

For now, I know the answer,
as it is in my gift, [archaic expression]
to follow through with the only option I have,
and that is, [superfluous line]

— killing myself to live. [good ending]
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delph_ambi
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« Reply #37 on: August 09, 2009, 11:42:30 AM »

Great piece of flash fiction, but if you want to turn it into a poem, you'll need a sharp pair of scissors. I think it works so well as a flash, I'm going to refrain from making any poetic suggestions, as I think they'd spoil it. I'd simply reformat into normal paragraphs and leave it at that. Mind, you might like to change the word order now and again ('She knew not' needs to be 'She didn't know' etc).
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Woody
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« Reply #38 on: August 11, 2009, 08:34:49 PM »

posting here has proven unwise. ed will keep your stuff after he bans you. only he knows why.
« Last Edit: January 29, 2011, 06:32:34 PM by Woody » Logged

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« Reply #39 on: August 20, 2009, 06:46:35 PM »

posting here has proven unwise. ed will keep your stuff after he bans you. only he knows why.
« Last Edit: January 29, 2011, 06:30:49 PM by Woody » Logged

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« Reply #40 on: September 13, 2009, 06:27:01 PM »

posting here has proven unwise. ed will keep your stuff after he bans you. only he knows why.
« Last Edit: January 29, 2011, 06:29:54 PM by Woody » Logged

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delph_ambi
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« Reply #41 on: September 14, 2009, 03:15:00 AM »

First line's crying out to have the word order changed, ie:

I sat on a beige faux-leather seat

I have no idea why you had that one so topsy-turvy. You wouldn't say 'Upon a beige faux leather seat I sat' so don't write it.

The rest of the poem avoids such infelicities. There's much to like here. Much I'd change if it were my own poem, but of course it isn't, so I'm not sure how far you want me to go with a crit. If it's only in draft form at the moment, there's no point in me going through with a fine tooth comb, but I'll happily look at it again when you reckon you've got it into shape.

You'll need a better title, but I'm sure you know that. 'Headless scotties' would be more eye-catching!
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Pharosian
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« Reply #42 on: September 14, 2009, 09:49:23 AM »

First and foremost this poem is the attempt at capturing a dream I had. ... Also any other crits are welcome.

Woody, I get that you tried to capture a dream here. They're slippery things, aren't they? A couple of my suggestions are for moving beyond that initial stage, because I think that while dreams can be an excellent starting point for art, they shouldn't be treated as sacred or immutable. This will have more appeal if you punch it up a bit and get rid of the uncertainties your dream left you with such as the "I think" for the car model and the vagueness of the weather report. I also made a couple of grammar comments.  rolleyes


Weird, Weird Dream
Upon a beige faux leather seat I sat     << What delph said...
in the car park at the back,
of the library in Hadleigh.

It was the remnants of an old Ford Escort,
I think.              << I'd get rid of this to make the description of the car definite
And all around were the scattered bodies
of greasy Scotties
– no head attached, just separate,
lying there.

A massive pole of thousand foot steel
melded to the ground, stood rampant in the sky;
attached to my seat.
And all around pedestrians walked by,
they didn’t see
the chair with me sat upon it,
terrified.

Then, within a blink, there was a whoosh
 as the chair and me began to rush   << change "began to rush" to "rushed" same as you would in prose
into the sky, along the pole’s shaft,
my lungs losing their air.

Being pushed back in the seat,
with gravity pulling at my legs and feet,
the ground beneath me shrunk away,  << past tense of "shrink" is "shrank"; subject of sentence is ground, so first two lines don't make sense *
becoming a model as I swayed
in the breeze around me.
And then we stopped.

Far below, through crushed up eyes,
I could see Matchbox cars
and people of no size
moving around in their minuscule world,
oblivious to my plight.

And without any introduction,
a man tapped on my shoulder,
and I began to shudder.          << change "began to shudder" to "shuddered" same as you would in prose
He had a map in hand and wanted me
to look over it as he hovered next to me.

I saw his arms, I saw his body
and his khaki jacket as he asked me
where he was, because,           << no comma after because and maybe not even before
he didn’t know.
–   He was lost.
Him!? I thought.

He pulled plastic maps from his jacket,
then paper ones attached by elastic
until there was one that matched
the view,
–   the Estuary behind us.

I helped him as much as I could
and once happy he disappeared,
leaving me with that paralysing fear,
my vertigo.

Then as quickly as he’d come,
appeared the pull chains of Hilary blinds,
those chains of beads that could close out light
and with nothing to do to change my plight,
I pulled at them.

Suddenly I was in descent,
stomach in mouth, with no relent
as wind rushed around my ears
with my fear,
increasing

Having ground, approaching fast,
and to the seat my hands firmly grasped,   << my hands firmly grasped to the seat
I closed my eyes tightly;                         << the semi-colon should be a comma
fearing the worst.

Then came to me a radio announcer,                   << A radio announcer came to me (or better, A radio announcer spoke)
speaking of weather and how things were better;  << In a 2nd draft, I'd change the vague "things were better" to a vivid image of marmalade skies or similar
followed by pips of seven o’clock.

The hit on the ground I’d thought I’d suffer
vanished as my eyelids fluttered.
Letting in the light of day
and the red digits of the display
on my alarm clock.

I sat upon the edge of my bed,                          << do you ever say "upon" in everyday usage? Change to "on"
still cognizant of the dread,
I’d felt in waking,
and wondered, for a while,
whether the dream had any meaning.

Seats and Scotties,
poles and sky,
people with maps
and the heights implied.
The reasons behind these images seemed,
nothing more than a weird, weird dream.
But was it?


* Let's look at this sentence all on one line, as though it were prose:

Being pushed back in the seat, with gravity pulling at my legs and feet, the ground beneath me shrunk away, becoming a model as I swayed in the breeze around me.

It's clear that your intention is that YOU are the subject here, being pushed and pulled, but the way the sentence is constructed, "you" only appear in some dependent clauses. The independent clause here (the one with the subject and verb) is "the ground beneath me [shrank] away." Clearly, it wasn't the ground "being pushed back in the seat." Your best bet to fix this is to insert yourself into the the independent clause: "I watched the ground beneath me..." or "I saw the ground..."

Being pushed back in the seat,
with gravity pulling at my legs and feet,
I saw the ground beneath me shrink away,
becoming a model as I swayed
in the breeze around me.
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« Reply #43 on: September 15, 2009, 06:42:41 PM »

posting here has proven unwise. ed will keep your stuff after he bans you. only he knows why.
« Last Edit: January 29, 2011, 06:30:14 PM by Woody » Logged

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Perception is nine tenths of the look. Brave Dave the Feather in Caribbean Conspiracy
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« Reply #44 on: September 15, 2009, 07:08:42 PM »

posting here has proven unwise. ed will keep your stuff after he bans you. only he knows why.
« Last Edit: January 29, 2011, 06:30:26 PM by Woody » Logged

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Perception is nine tenths of the look. Brave Dave the Feather in Caribbean Conspiracy
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