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Stepping Up to the Plate, Part 5

Go here to see what I'm doing and why. All readers are invited, encouraged, and begged to respond. The purpose of this experiment is to engage in discussion.

"Camera Obscura" by Deborah P. Kolodji

I am always a fan of non-narrative poem, or pieces that imply a narrative but don't give us a direct beginning/middle/end, so the jumps between stanzas work for me. I also appreciate tales told minimally, letting the images do their work. I also like the ambiguity of the last three lines, which is aided by the word choice. On one level, these phrases can be taken at face value. The "he" has become a famous actor/director/producer, is having a cocktail party, and his newest fling is right beside him. However, knowing he's alien, and knowing what aliens do, what if the "hors d'oeuvres" are the people laying about the pool, and the starlet is literally hoovering, i.e., in a glass chamber of some sort. The minimalism here works, and certain lines and images catch me the wrong way--"with adolescent dreams," for example, didn't seem necessary when preceded by "breathless"--I certainly see how this piece is a contender.

"Internet Witch" by Karen L. Newman

I don't want to call them puns, exactly, but in some ways, that's why they are--finding the places where computer language and mythic language cross and writing from that point. There's a non-seriousness to this piece which I appreciate, though. I think it knows it's not a deeper, more resonating piece, and is okay with that. That levity is welcoming, and I think this piece dances the line of "too much" quite well. Like a dish in which a specific herb takes over, poets can sometimes take their clever ideas too far to the point that they're gimmicks, and I feel Newman has not done that. The rhythm here is tight, the line breaks (especially between stanzas one and two--well done, there) and the way the images and language are used, especially in the last stanza, is fresh, so there are many things this piece has going for it. However, for me, this reads as clever language play and a neat idea that doesn't really take me anywhere, and I'm left wanting something more substantial. That could simply be a personal prejudice against light verse, though, and fingers that point at me with that intention are certainly justified.

"To the Royal Society of Cryptozoologists from the Concerned Daughter of a Member" by Caitlyn Paxson

Yaaay, steampunk! Give me more of that coal gas zeppelin flying revised history! I am completely digging that aspect of the poem. However, for me, this reads like a song lyric and not a poem. I'm not saying the two can't cross over, especially when one remembers that all poetry used to be accompanied by music, but I feel this one might be too much lyric and too little poetry. The use of repetition in lines, and phrases really draws me closer to the conclusion, and while I know that there are poems which repeat lines, phrases and stanzas, it's something I see more of in lyrics. The six line stanzas (4 & 8) read, for me, as something meant to be spoken, especially the last few lines of each. Again, I acknowledge that there are poems which read better out loud than on paper, but this piece doesn't seem to be one of those.  I'm kept at a distance by some of the phrasing, and feel that some lines are a bit too vague or cliche--"I am quick and strong and able," or "In fact my father is obsessed."--for a poem, but would work perfectly well in a lyric. This would probably make a killer song, but I'm not sure this works for me as a poem.

"There, where the universe begins" by Terrie Leigh Relf

This is one of those poems that takes you on a journey without actually taking you to any specific destination in particular; I like that. There's no story here, no persona revealing a secret, simply a layer of images, each one leading to the other, like stones across a stream which the reader is forced to follow for fear of drowning. That being said, the "and" at the end of lines 1 and  5 catch me, though I understand how the author is using them to propell the reader to the next line. Also, the use of "confabulated" seems too scientific, though I understand how Relf is using it. For me, this poem requires rereading, and there's enough to return to upon each rereading in the language and imagery, so there's something to be said about that. As  grayrose76 6 points out, any piece that calls a reader back is worth considering for a nomination, and certainly worth paying attention to. For me, this is what's happening in this piece.

"The Invisible Woman Runs for President" by Karen A. Romanko

Here's another piece that, for me, is a clever idea and fun word play, especially in the last stanza, but doesn't come to much more than that. There is a hint of something deeper being said at the end, especially considering the current state of the economy, but I'm not sure there's enough to back up any real statement about anything. So the reader is left with the surface, and I'm not sure there's enough there, even. Some of the line breaks seem off, especially in stanzas three and five, and don't seem to add anything to the poem. A lot of the images or language choice seem tired or self-conscious--"caper" for example. Does anyone really use that word anymore? Again, there's a silliness here, or an intentional lightness that I may have a personal prejudice against. So be it. For me, this is clever, but not a "best of the year"


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 6th, 2009 03:24 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the review! I think it's very true that my musical roots show through in my poetry...
Apr. 6th, 2009 10:50 pm (UTC)
Can you set it to music? :)
Apr. 7th, 2009 12:54 pm (UTC)
Actually, I have, but I'm not happy with the music part yet.
Apr. 6th, 2009 10:52 pm (UTC)
Relf's poem reads beautifully for me until line 5, and loses me at the and:
where history emerges and

the rest of it is still ok but it doesn't flow as well.
Apr. 7th, 2009 01:58 pm (UTC)
Yup. At that point, I think the language loses something in the tone that had already been established. For me, it was line six, but I see how line five could do the same.
Apr. 8th, 2009 05:14 am (UTC)
The Invisible Woman Runs for President
Hi, Josh,

Normally I don't respond to reviews, but, as you're trying to foster discussion, I'm making an exception in this case.

I've received some great responses to my poem "The Invisible Woman Runs for President." Most of the replies that saw a deeper meaning in the poem came from women--perhaps just a coincidence, perhaps not (though it was a man who purchased the poem). Some of the comments on SFPAnet included, "A _brilliant_ political science fiction poem!" (emphasis theirs) and "a Thinker-poem for sure!"

On my blog, someone said, "Ah, wow. You work so much into this, touching on all sorts of beliefs and expectations about female politicians. The "invisibility" from so few being in office, the expectations that women must be superheroes to achieve, and more! I'm a impressed!"

No one said "silly," (I'd prefer "witty" or "satirical") but, of course, it's an "eye of the beholder" kind of thing.

P.S. Some people referred to Watergate as a "caper," so the word seemed perfectly apt.

Apr. 8th, 2009 12:46 pm (UTC)
Re: The Invisible Woman Runs for President
I'm glad you've made an exception, because your response has opened up some possibilities that I overlooked.

Perhaps the problem I'm having with the poem is that I don't have certain beliefs about female politicians, and have been sheltered from any such beliefs, so perhaps I missed that depth to the piece. With out that postulate, I'm not sure the poem has the impact that it might have. Pointing out that postulate, I can see a certain statement being said, so that could simply be saying more about me as a reader than the poem itself.

As far as silly, certain lines:

"(bandages are HMO-shabby)"
"No cash on cosmetic surgery"
"a fix for the economy, alas, remains/invisible."

seemed to be more jokes to me. If we want to use the word "witty" or "sarcastic", sure. I'm not sure I see the satire, but based on the comments that you've received, that might work, too.

As far as caper, Watergate was 1972-74--30 years ago? The word still seems very dated to me, and has self-consciously ironic, if not "silly," connotations. For me, it's a very comic booky word, and brings up images of Dick Tracey and the like. I would certainly not refer to a modern, political mystery--the hunt for Sadaam Hussein in Iraq, for example--as a "caper".
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )


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