Critique

I’m usually the first to admit that I’m not much good at the art of critiquing. I know what goes into building a poem, and I also know that a few harsh words, or even well meaning words spoken about one’s work can chink at someone’s confidence as a poet or writer.

Being of the school of hard knocks, I embrace feedback, and as you can see from some recent work have definitely benefited from being an active part of Luke Prater and Julie Watkins’ Face book critique group. We all want our poetry to be loved and appreciated whether it be penned in half an hour, or over a course of a few weeks. At the end of the day a poem is a part of us, so critique should always be given with improvement in mind, rather than a personal onslaught to the person who weilded the pen. Gay Cannon was invaluable in helping me pen my first valid Villanelle

This week on one stop poetry’s Saturday feature Pete Marshall offers up one of his poems for critique. I noticed others have gone for a rewrite only, but I will attempt to critique only, as this is Pete’s baby, not my own work.

Let life live on a desolate shore
untouched by man and free of law
where all who live are but creature & flower
on a paradise island these dreams are our
fantasies that wont come true
for Man destroys anything who
stands in his way to accomplish a dream
with Science, War, Religion & we
who all just sit back and watch
do not try to stop as the world destructs.

Let their blood flow on through the valley
covering the land raped by the tyranny
scorching the Earth so dry & disfigured
where once stood trees & flowers & people.
hard to believe there once was life here
this barren land savaged by the years
but no river runs cold when you fight for existence
to live & breathe & laugh is resistance.

The first two lines are beautiful, and could read like a refrain repeated through the poem for greater effect. Pete has a way of being naturally rhythmic in his lines , in fact he normally writes in trochaic dimeter, and falls naturally into the Shakespearian iambic rhythm.

As a reader of poetry, I dislike and, the, that…you know those words that everyone uses to fill a hole, and I would question the amount of ands and the’s in the poems to fill in the rhythm, when better words and meanings could be used to highlight the point.

Also, it is up to us as writers, to emphasise certain lines and refrains by adding punctuation. Also by breaking the stanza’s up into smaller chunks if longer pauses are required. So this is an example of how I would re write the fist stanza::

Let life live on a desolate shore
untouched by man, free of law;
where all who live are creature or flower
on a paradise island, these dreams are our
fantasies
that wont come true.

Man destroys anything that
stands in his way to accomplish his dreams,
with Science, War, Religion
“civilisation” just sits back and watch
sits idly by as world destructs.

This is generally how I critique, just suggesting small changes to enrich the poem and help with flow, rather than take something completely apart and start again. So to look at the second stanza::

Let their blood flow on through the valley
covering the land raped by tyranny Removed the>
scorching the Earth so dry and disfigured
where once stood trees, flowers
people?
hard to believe there once was life here
this barren land savaged by the years
but no river runs cold when you fight for existence
to live
breathe
laugh
is resistance.

Now, you can see I’ve done a few minor cosmetic changes to the second stanza also.

I would then look at the flow of the poem. I do think that some of the lines could do with rearranging, just for the full sucker punch of meaning in this poem. Would I offer to re-write them? No. Could I? Possibly not in Pete’s style.

As poets, and writers and artists, the rejection letters coming in through the post are plenty enough to tell us that some work for want of a better word needs work. This is why critique, and honest critique is so invaluable to us. We don’t always write about the same things, but we write about them in our way, and if people like what they see, then we must be doing something right. If we can then learn from this and hone our pieces, maybe then these editors, agents and publishers will start taking note, and give us a friendly critique in the next rejection letter they send us 🙂

Nice job Pete, thanks for letting us work on your poetry.

Advertisements

One response to “Critique

  1. hi shan…thank you so much for taking the time to get involved in this exercise…i love the way you have kept the original and reworked it with minor suggestions…one thing you and others have all mentioned is the use of “and”…something that needs to be looked at..thanks for your honesty…cheers pete

Put me out of my misery people!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s