Friday, 26 February 2010


I am no poet. The only poem I've ever written that I am not entirely dissatisfied with was five years in the making (you can hear me reading it, somewhat squiffily, here), so it's safe to say I'll never get a book of verse out. Unfortunately I have to include ten poems in my final portfolio, which is due a month today, so I've had to try and write some.

Thus, in the spirit of extreme panic, I have decided to share my tragic efforts here in the hope that any poets, English teachers, critics, or anyone at all, might take pity on me and tell me what to do.

I'll only put one up at a time, here's the first, and apologies to those of a sensitive poetic nature:

Water Butt

All winter it takes
in rain and saves
it for the dry season.

I had seen a summer
ripe with stripy gourds
and salad crops,

sweet-peas climbing
home-grown willow
wigwams. Jam jars filled

with asters glinting
on our sunny sills,
and pickles in the pantry.

But, carefree as a toddler
playing with a hose, you
let the water seep away,
while trying to be of use.


Philip said...

I'm feeling brave cos you're feeling brave. So I'll give you some proper criticism.

First of all, genuinely, thanks for sharing. You're a star. I love what you write, and I'm always thrilled to see it and read it.

I like all the words (like everything you write)in this poem. I like the way it progresses and the way it reaches a conclusion. I like the words you choose, the trip off the tongue, and the beat of it.

I don't like the physical, on the page, structure. I've never been into the switching to a new line in the midst of a sentence thing. I reckon you should trust a reader with the whole sentence (or the bit of it leading up to a proper comma), they'll find the rhythm.

eg All winter it takes in rain,
and saves it for the dry season.

I hasten to add that poetically speaking I'm proudly primitive. It's all about how it reads. Lay it out how you want it read.

I love the last bit. I hope that what I've said here doesn't "let the water seep away while trying to be of use". I hope that shows that I had some understanding and that you therefore did a good job (unless I'm way off, which ain't necessarily your fault at all!).

My beloved has been working on a poetry bit of her course of late. I think it's really hard. I can only write a poem spontaneously. All else is bizarre.

Again - thanks for sharing.

Jimmy Bastard said...

Charming layers of word upon thought. I see your innermost thoughts more clearly than intended.

Kanani said...

Oh, there are some nice images here!

Are you reading this aloud?
I think Phillip picked up on something. The first stanza could flow a bit better. Play around with the enjambment a bit to see if you can catch more of a rhythm.

What would happen if you got rid of one of the "its" in the first stanza and substituted a noun? Is there a word for either that might be move the rhythm creating a mellifluous sound?

"I had seen..." Is there a more direct way to take the reader into the garden without going into a reflective past tense?

So the images are all here, and one could play with the structure all day long. But keep reading it aloud ...better yet, ask your husband to read it to you!

Good start. I like this part..."you let the water seep away while trying to be of use."

The Pollinatrix said...

I like this poem, and I also like the comments that have been given so far, although I have to respectfully disagree with Philip about the structure. I'm a huge fan of enjambment and shorter lines, especially in a poem like this, where each image deserves its own little stage.

The only thing that tripped me up was the "it" in the third line; it breaks what is otherwise a nice rhythm. My suggestion is to change it to "in rain to save/for the dry season." But maybe you'll come up with a better idea.

In my Authoritative Opinion as an English instructor with a Master's degree, you are most certainly a poet.

Elisabeth said...

Good for you. I like this poem, too. I'm no poet as well.

One day I intend to complete a poetry course here at the CAE or at some other salubrious institution where they teach you to focus.

In the meantime, more power to you. you're doing it.

Rachel Fox said...

It has a lovely gentleness. Definitely feels different to what I've read from you so far. I always find it interesting what poetry reveals about a person (not just what they write but how they write).

As for when to linebreak...it kind of depends what you want. Lots of people write in the 'modern poetry way' because (I suppose) that's what they think they should do. It always seems a bit sheepy to me (but then I am an unsuccessful weirdo...and this is only an opinion). I'd say write it as it feels/seems/sounds/looks best to you at this stage and just find your way into poetry. What poetry do you like to read best? Why do you like it?


Gadjo Dilo said...

I have a sensitive poetic nature, so I was please to read the Thomas Hardy-esque last couple of lines which transform something nice and positive into something about loss! ;-)

Kim Ayres said...

But it doesn't rhyme...

Pat said...

My poetry skill is limited to counting the syllables, scanning and rhyming but I get great delight from reading stuff from the masters so don't pay too much attention to what I say.
I liked the fact that it was short and easy to read and the layout didn't bother me at all. On the contrary.
'Stripy' gave me pause - I would have spelled 'stripey'.
I love the images the words conjure up and 'pickles in the pantry' is ace.
You say 'I had seen' so would you perhaps say 'I' rather than 'you' let the water out?
As I said I know nothing;)

Eryl Shields said...

Philip ~ thank you for all you say here, it's extremely helpful in making me think about what I'm trying to do. Because I like the image I'd been trying to ignore the rhythm of the first verse, but you're right it needs to be addressed.

Good luck to Sharon with her poetry, it is very hard!

Jimmy ~ that is the problem with poetry, you bare your soul without meaning to.

Kanani ~ hello my dear, haven't seen you for a while. I am so neglecting my friends at the moment.

You have given me a lot to think about here: that damned first verse! And thanks for pointing out the reflective past tense of line four, I hadn't even noticed it!

Polli ~ the comments are where it's at! I wish I'd done this months ago. That first verse is definitely a problem. Why hadn't I noticed the 'its'?

Thank you for saying I am a poet, but you might change your mind when you see what comes next.

Elizabeth ~ I would never have tried poetry if the course hadn't forced me to. I'm glad it did because even if I never write another poem after this it has helped me understand, a little more, how language works.

Rachel ~ it seems that there is so much to take into consideration when writing poetry: rhythm, image, line breaks, shape, etc., that I get incredibly confused. Writing poems reminds me of when I was learning to drive, having to turn the wheel, depress the clutch and the break and change gear while looking out for pedestrians, cars, bicycles and motorbikes all in the time it takes to sneeze.

That you think 'it has a lovely gentleness' pleases me no end! X

Gadjo ~ Thomas Hardy-esque? Thank you! You will find, if you stick around, that all my poems point to loss. Though I hope they do so in a positive way, if that's possible.

Kim ~ ha!

Pat ~ 'stripey' you're right! I had thought it looked odd but ignored it. My spelling goes to pot when I'm concentrating.

I'm glad you found it easy to read, I hate the thought of being difficult. I dream of pickles in the pantry!

Titus said...

Can add nothing of intelligence further to the above, though "pickles in the pantry" really is ace, and I liked it.

Eryl Shields said...

Thanks m'love. I have a feeling I have stolen 'pickles in the pantry' from my mother's Good Housekeeping cook book circa 1963.

Mary Witzl said...

I like this a lot, especially that last stanza. I put all my poems in a folder, then -- when I can bear it -- revisit each one every so often. Almost every single one starts out with some cringe-worthy element, but I like to think that every time I go back, I peel away a little that needs to go and add a stroke here or there that HAS to be there. Don't know if that will work for you, but it might.

But whatever the case, you are a poet!