Anger, Critiques, Emotions, Outstanding Bloggers, Sexuality, Sledpress

Poetry Critique:“To Carmen, Upon Belting Him One”, by Sledpress

(About a 4 minute read)

Dear Readers,

Sometime ago I spent a lovely afternoon in the Manitou Public Library reading a book of advice to poets.  The author was convinced that the secret to great poetry was “swing”.

More than anything else — including rhyme, meaning, imagery, etc — a great poem had to have swing.  By which he meant that the lines had to more or less seesaw back and forth.

Any theory of poetry that focuses us on just one trait to declare it the single most important trait is, of course, easy to quickly dismiss.  But before we dismiss this swing theory, I think we should consider a couple things about it.

While I wouldn’t go so far as to say it is the single most important thing about any poem, it has certainly been a staple of poetry since practically forever.  Moreover, swing does have a bit of hypnotic effect that can lure you away from your cares and into the world of the poem.  Plus, a good swinging poem can be positively rousing.

As an example of a rousing good swinging poem, I submit Sledpress’s “To Carmen, Upon Belting Him One”.  There’s a bit of a backstory to it, however, that might interest you — although the poem is so well crafted it is not actually necessary to know the story to appreciate the poem.  As Sledpress herself writes:

Yes. There was a fortyish life-path-changing undergraduate at the strange Catholic college where I worked for three years as an administrative secretary, who hung out in my office, mornings, in a transparent attempt to chat me up. Toothsome yet obnoxious, he once felt the need to pull my chain way too hard and I reacted by kicking him square in the ass way too hard. He flew out into the corridor without touching the office carpet. And slunk back a week later to ask me to dinner.

Here now is the poem followed by my feeble critique of it.  By the way, consider sounding this one aloud.  I believe all poems should be read aloud, but especially this one — in order to the full impact of it.

Best,

Paul


To Carmen, Upon Belting Him One, by Sledpress

Come back for more, you son-of-a-bitch,
There’s more than one place where you make me itch:
The flat of my hand and the toe of my shoe
Are burning for better acquaintance with you.

Some girls like pearls, some girls like lace,
I’d like just to wipe that grin off your face:
Stand back while I take off my watch and my rings —
I like to observe etiquette in these things.

You think that you’re smart, well I’d say pretty clever,
You’ve got the best ass that I’ve seen in forever,
I can’t decide whether to drag you to bed
Or welt you another right upside your head.

If you’ve spoke your opinion or rather, attack,
You can get off my (well, metaphorical) back–
You should have expected I bite when I’m goaded
(Gee, Officer, I didn’t know it was loaded!)

Come back for more, don’t run off, little brother,
I’ll get you for this one way or another,
You make up your mind if that’s promise or threat,
You son-of-a-bitch, I’m not through with you yet.


 

Dear Sledpress,

By all rights, I should be intimidated to critique a poem as well crafted as this one by an artist such as yourself, given I’m a novice at criticism.   I should be, but then I would not be true to my arrogant self, and I am a staunch proponent of authenticity.

To describe your poem as “rousing” is only the start of it.  It’s also quite emotionally vivid, humane, and uplifting.  I think anyone can understand why I would call it “emotionally vivid”, but perhaps “humane” and “uplifting” need explanations.

Humane, because it puts your “friend” in his place without demonizing him, without turning him into a sub-human object of scorn.  That seems to me a temptation so many of us indulge in these days, but you have avoided it here.

By doing so, you allow the poem to delve into the mixed-feelings you have for him, which makes for an altogether more interesting work than a single-minded diatribe could have easily accomplished.

I especially enjoyed your wit, and especially the wit of these lines:

Stand back while I take off my watch and my rings —
I like to observe etiquette in these things.

And, given your mixed feelings for him, the delightful ambiguity of the final stanza:

Come back for more, don’t run off, little brother,
I’ll get you for this one way or another,
You make up your mind if that’s promise or threat,
You son-of-a-bitch, I’m not through with you yet.

All in all, I think you have created a masterful look at your reactions to someone who made an all-too-cocky of an advance upon you, despite your attraction to him.  That you didn’t demonize him even in the least, leaves me with positive feelings about his getting his just deserts.

I cannot think of anyway in which the poem might be substantially improved.  Drats!

All the best,

Paul

4 thoughts on “Poetry Critique:“To Carmen, Upon Belting Him One”, by Sledpress”

  1. That’s “Sledpress” to you, Paulie. 😉

    (I do have a four pound sledge in my porch, named Mjollnir, but that’s another story.)

    Only… thank you for choosing this one out of the miscellany! I’ve often thought of it as an afterthought or bagatelle and it’s a treat to find that someone enjoyed the “swing” as you put it. As profound as many efforts in blank and free verse can be, in these our times I feel a positive hunger for the dance of language. It’s what comes naturally to me.

    And as so often happens, I hadn’t even thought about the whole question of discounting or “othering” the guy who was a bit too full of himself those thirty five or so years ago. (Yeah, this one is a golden oldie.) But you have a point: relationship difficulties so frequently end in “him/her bad guy.”

    For the record, Reader, I banged him. Once. It was not meant to be, nor am I at all sad that it wasn’t, but you’re only young once. The gym coach stopped by later the day of the episode, having witnessed the ejection from my office, and gave me an apple and a Heineken; she thought he was a little full of himself too. Every five or ten years i wonder what became of him.

    1. Sorry about not getting your username right.

      “The dance of language” — how well said!

      I aim to do another one of your poems someday after I wade through my backlog. I hope that doesn’t dismay you. At least not too much.

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