#1
This old tree sits, sipping on
morning dew that has dampened
the usually-crisp forest floor.
It's arms reach wildly towards the clouds,
writhing and twisting their way up.
Owls callously call, not realising that
their screams and shouts will awaken us,
as we lie in a blanket, beneath this tree.

A squirrel is staring at me.
He is the first thing that registers
as the darkness becomes light, becomes focused.
He nods to me, takes his food and climbs down.
I turn and stroke her hair -
like chestnut; strong and brown.

Scattered light - shadows too - surround,
scare and amaze, forming pictures, patterns.
Day is here, bright as ever, and bringing
new greens and yellows to the forest.
Now she wakes, solemn but smiling,
as the forest floor begins to creep.

Fingers knotted together like vines
we made our way through the brush,
beside a thin trickle of water.

We always follow the current;
our leaf sailed, semi-submerged.
We watch, as it dodges and swims
round rocks, and fish and
it goes on, through rapids
the size of fists, it lists lazily,
meanders meekly, but nonetheless,
it journeys along the route we want.
The river leads the way; our leaf the captain.

The water slows and comes up to a stop
and all the blues fold into browns,
the mud and skunk and dirt forms
into piles of froth, piles of scum and rump.
Broth-like, wet and cold to the touch.
The leaf sits still, there to rot.
She jokes, mocks a vicar's speech
and kicks a little of the mess
to cover it, paying nature's respect.

Mildly revised a few times. Nothing too Major. C4C. Tell me if I didn't get to you from last time. Zach, I'll hit your next one up, I owe ya.
Last edited by Jammydude44 at Mar 22, 2008,
#2
well this is a short crit is all i can say is i liked it, but it isnt ur best work. i really dont have any suggestions for improvement sorry
pardon me... do you have any grey poupon?
#3
i owe you a crit on this. i hope i'll get to it later tonight.
my name is matt. you can call me that if you like.
#4
Meh, I don't know what to think of this.

It feels like you're trying too hard, to be honest. Most of the descriptions were cliché and not original at all, or at least I thought I had heard them somewhere before.

Maybe it's just your style, I don't know. Lines like


Owls callously call, not realising that
their screams and shouts will awaken us,


A squirrel is staring at me.
He is the first thing that registers
as the darkness becomes light, becomes focused.


Look, as it dodges and swims
round rocks, and fish and,
and it goes on, through rapids
the size of fists, it lists lazily,


I just don't like it. It's not bad writing but I don't think it's good, you know? Like I said, it feels like you're trying too hard, almost as if you desperately want to be 'poetic' (whatever that may be) or resemble some famous poet. I think, in general, it was the 'tone' of the piece that bugged me the most. For example, with the 'Look,' line: I was bored by the time I got there and I was like 'NO.' because I basically knew what was going to happen next..

I guess this is one of the pieces (styles?) that some people will like while others won't. Personally I'm not a fan, but like I stated before, it's not bad writing at all. Also, it may seem like I hated everything but of course there were some good lines/descriptions in this. The ending was good too, it wrapped everything up and was well executed.

Sorry if that was harsh, I didn't mean it like that
#5
I kind of have to agree with phantom on this one. This piece just seemed too "poetic-y", meaning it remined me of some old poem that they make you read in middle school. I think that one of your strongest traits as a writer is your sense of humor that you're able to inject into your pieces. I felt like this piece was trying too hard to be serious. However, you did use a lot of imagery, which I love so I'll give that to you. Anyways, sorry for the harsh crit, but I know you can do better than this.

Crit mine please
I Failed a Personality Test
#6
Quote by Jammydude44
This old tree sits, sipping on
morning dew that has dampened
the usually-crisp forest floor.
It's arms reach wildly towards the clouds,
writhing and twisting their way up.
Owls callously call, not realising that
their screams and shouts will awaken us,
as we lie in a blanket, beneath this tree.


there were two things which struck me reading this.

a) its very dry. everything is very plain and clear, perhaps too much so. in a lot of ways, it reads like functional prose with line breaks, like you're describing it because you have to. it doesn't feel entirely like prose with line breaks, because it does have a certain poetic quality to it, but in a lot of ways, it is very, very plainly descriptive. personally, i'd like it to be less so. i mean, its something that everyone does sometimes, where you write but the words just don't quite feel powerful enough. everything just feels too ordered and neat and it think it is less engaging because of it.

b) you delay revealing the subject very well here. you start with 'this', making the reader focus on the tree, and don't bring in the 'us' until late on, and i like that. i thought it worked well, but i think it would work better if the description was a little more engaging.

A squirrel is staring at me.
He is the first thing that registers
as the darkness becomes light, becomes focused.
He nods to me, takes his food and climbs down.
I turn and stroke her hair -
like chestnut, strong and brown.


again, i think this could be more engaging. waking up is a fascinating thing, because whilst a person is waking their perception of the world around them is so hazy, and waking up in a forest only makes it more so. but here, its just kind of glossed over i think. its a very curious section, because its so detached, which i think is another key point that runs throughout this poem. the description of you (oh no, i just did the whole calling the author the narrator thing, but you know, whether it is or not this is easier) seeing the squirrel is from your perspective, but at the same time it feels like a third party description, because it treats it kind of objectively rather than bringing in the complexities of perception as a person wakes, or at least doesn't do so very explicitly. likewise, in the description of stroking the hair, it feels very detached and factual.

i thought the description of the hair was also quite interesting in the words you used. i mean, the first thing is that you describe its colour twice in three words, and with the third word choose a peculiar characteristic; strong isn't something we really talk about hair being (with the exception of shampoo adverts), so it kind of jumps out as incongruous. similarly, it jars a little with this scene of innocence, sleeping in the lap of the trees, nymph-like. its curious, and i think the fact that these three words jump out so much heightens the other element, that they could all be used equally aptly to describe the tree. on the whole, i guess i liked this part. it was more engaging, largely because of its peculiarity.

Scattered light - shadows too - surround,
scare and amaze, forming pictures, patterns.
The newly bright greens and yellows
inspire zest for life; the blacks are pessimistic.
Now she wakes, solemn but smiling,
as the forest floor begins to creep.


again, detached is the big word. i think the particular sentence which jumps out is 'the newly bright greens and yellows inspire zest for life', simply because of the gap between meaning and delivery. you tell us it inspires zest for life, but the way you tell us doesn't seem to be filled with zest. further, the counterbalance of the 'pessimistic' blacks immediately tempers it. as before, it feels like an objective survey of the environment, divorced from the feelings of the people in the environment. its very ambivalent.

i think the 'solemn but smiling' worked, there's just something very enigmatic about it, and i thought the last line was wonderful both in terms of its descriptive quality and just the sound of it. i liked that.

Fingers knotted together like vines
we made our way through the brush,
beside a thin trickle of water.


i liked this. it just felt more compelling somehow. i think part of the reason is that you use what would be the 'ablative absolute' in latin, i'm not sure there's a very good equivalent in english, essentially its the way you use a participle adjectively. instead of saying 'our fingers were knotted like vines and we made our way through the brush', you make the two concepts enclosed together, you let the description of your hands and of your walk inform and govern each other, and i think doing so makes it feel much more personal, much less detached. it makes everything feel interconnected, which is how things are when we experience them, rather than disconnected as they can be when we describe them from a detached position. i think the other thing i liked about this was the way the last line introduces the next stanza in a way which gives you more freedom. nice.

We always follow the current;
our leaf sailed, semi-submerged.
Look, as it dodges and swims
round rocks, and fish and,
and it goes on, through rapids
the size of fists, it lists lazily,
meanders meekly, but nonetheless,
it journeys along the route we want.
The river leads the way; our leaf the captain.


this is where that last line pays off, because it allows you to make this ambiguous opening line, which we read both as informed by the previous stanza, but also in a wider sense (especially thanks to the 'always). i think this line and the last one of the previous stanza are probably my favourites in the piece simply because they have such a great impact thanks to the way they interact. nice.

i didn't like 'look', simply because i don't think it worked. it feels like its trying to impose a liveliness on the sentence that follows, but the sentence that follows doesn't live up to the expectations of liveliness and i think the 'look' reinforces that fact.

i think what was interesting about this stanza was also the way it interacted with the final stanza, but i'll come to that in time.

The water slows and comes up to a stop
and all the blues fold into browns,
the mud and skunk and dirt forms
into piles of froth, piles of scum and rump.
Insects roam, woodlice clam
around to claim the home.
Broth-like, wet and cold to the touch.
The leaf sits idly, there to rot.
She jokes, mocks a vicar's speech
and kicks a little of the mess
to cover it, paying nature's respect.


i think on a purely descriptive level, this is the best stanza. i think those monosyllabics in lines 3, 4 and 7 were really, really good. i wasn't so keen on other parts, i felt like 5 and 6 didn't work so well, and didn't really reflect nature very well either. similarly, 8 just didn't really work, i think 'idly' just didn't seem quite right.

what most interested me however, were the implications of this stanza and the previous one. i mean, the prior stanza has this sense of fortunate ambivalence. you follow the leaf on its course, it is your 'captain', but despite some minor moments of worry it 'journeys along the route [you] want'. theres this sense of not taking any real care over it, but it works out fine, and you still follow it, it is your 'captain', but at the same time you are like it, you both 'follow the current'. but then, this stanza has this fortunate leaf that you follow and are like coming to an abrupt end, those wonderful 'blues' turn into this thick mud, these round, swallowing monosyllabics, and then the girl gives it this mock funeral, mocking it and celebrating its end at the same time. i guess what fascinates me is that you've made this implication that you follow the leaf and are like the leaf, and then conclude with the 'death' of the leaf. i mean, there are all sorts of implications to draw about what this is supposed to say about you and the girl which are quite fascinating really, but you don't really make it clear if we're supposed to, you just hint at it. either way, you certainly manage to engage the reader at this point, and i think that is a good thing. its definitely an intriguing ending.

on the whole, this was frustrating in some ways. there were some wonderful lines, some wonderful pieces of craftsmanship, and in terms of meaning it was quite fascinating, but i thought much of it was very dry and unengaging. perhaps that was intentional, perhaps it was meant to be detached, but i think there's an art to being detached but also making your poetry engaging. its a difficult thing, and i don't think you really achieved it here, which is a shame, because parts of it were very interesting.

hope this was of some use.

my name is matt. you can call me that if you like.
#7
Woah thanks Matt.

A lot of my (longer pieces) of poetry tend to stem slowly from description towards an ending. I agree with your comments on how detached a lot of it felt. For me, I like to set up my pieces with some description first. What I could possibly do in future is to make the images more relevant to the feeling of the moment?

That may be one of the most helpful critiques I've ever had. Thanks man, appreciate your time you put into that, I'm totally editing this right now.

Thanks also Joris and Joseph. Your words, as ever, are invaluable
#8
its difficult in some ways to give general advice because i think in each case it differs, and i think when one tries to hard to consciously change how the images appear one's voice can be compromised in a way which isn't so great. equally, i think you have a really interesting style and i don't think the description followed by action thing is a bad one at all, just that it could be a little more interesting. all this being said, i think there are a few things that can be done.

firstly, i wouldn't make too much of a distinction between action and description. the 'like vines' description was a good example of a section where the description was tied in with the action. there are different ways of doing it, but the one you used there was a good one. you used the description in an almost adverbial sense, it informed how you walked. its something thats done in latin quite a lot, an adjective is used to describe what a person is like as they do an action, it essentially functions like an adverb, but at the same time its somehow deeper, it isn't just the action which has a certain quality, its the person doing the action who takes on that quality when he carries out the action.

the second suggestion is, i guess, somewhat linked to the first one, but oh well. rather than describing the environment, describe how you see the environment. filter the description through perception. focus not on the environment, but on the interaction between the person and the environment.

its difficult to describe really, because i think its something thats hard to really pin down, and equally, it isn't something that you should pin down. writing isn't some kind of exact science, and nor should it be. equally, sometimes, detachment does work. looking back, i think it does work, for instance, in the opening, because at that point the speaker is still asleep, the detachment works there and emphasises the sleeping.

on balance, i think in some ways i'd actually say that its less about making what you write about less detached, and more about making the detachment interesting. it can be tricky to do so, but being able to write in a detached style that still engages the reader is an awesome thing. i think a lot of it is about using wit and/or having a strong authorial voice, imposing upon the description your own identity, because the biggest problem with detachment is that feeling of functionality. the issue can be avoided by sidestepping it and not writing in a detached style, or by facing it and making your authorial voice more powerful and making the description feel like your description. as to how that is done, i can't say, because i don't think its something i'm good at. its something i'd like to work towards though.

i guess that, to sum up (because this was all a bit stream of consciousness and might not have made much sense), to make your descriptions less detached, focus less on describing the objects and more on describing the interactions between the objects and the characters, and use the descriptions to inform the actions rather than sitting side by side with it. but equally, don't abandon detachment, because it can be good. work on making your detachment more engaging for the reader. it isn't easy, but i think it is worthwhile.
my name is matt. you can call me that if you like.
#10


Thanks Matt. That's excellent advice. The whole thing about merging the action and description intrigues me. I've got a whole lot to work wit here, thanks a lot.

I'll hit your next one when you post it.