Apparitions of the City

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Funk
Date
21 years, 10 months ago (Sep 06, 2002)
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When I first reviewed this poetry and art collection, I summed it up as "shitty art + crappy poetry = crappy shit". However, I was informed by Kev that this did not constitute "constructive criticism". I shall, then, go through each of the poems one by one, commenting on the poem and the art that goes with it.

haiku 1: Actually I kind of like this one, although haikus are so rigid they're hard to fuck up. Does fairly well at evoking an image. But what are the headlights reflecting off? Seriously, I'm not taking the piss - you have to clarify the not immediately obvious. And in a haiku that's not possible, so better to use a less obtuse noun.

poem 1: There are a number of generic amateur poem genres. This one is the "taking an ordinary object and making it a thing of beauty" one. In this case, a fluorescent lamp. Sadly, rather than create any original or interesting images, he just hammers down lots of words like "undulating", "purity" and "celestial" and hopes they sound good. He even uses the word "decadent", for fucks' sake. This is so much like a parody of generic teen poetry it's not true. The art's just a bunch of white solids, fakes and breakables. Why?

haiku 2: Again, it's hard to fuck up a haiku and again this is quite good. In fact, I'll repeat it in its entirity:

purest wind carries our empty shells across the grave mountains downtown

See? The restrictive nature of haiku means that Kev can't give in to his teenpoet sensibilities and slap down as many polysyllabic words as he can - he has to choose his words carefully, and this works well. I would, however, have used "bitter" rather than "purest", if only because it looks less anachronistic given the images and tone of the other lines. I know some might think that it's changing the point of the haiku, but I honestly don't think Kev chose "purest" for any reason other than he thinks it looks kind of impressive in a poem.

poem 2: Just when it was going well, it's back to the teenpoetry. Again we're working with a teenpoetry cliche - this time it's the DNDNDNDN GIRL IS PRETTY IN MY DREAMS one. Some of the imagery is more effective here (the image of her floating in a "black wedding dress, eyes blazing" is strong in its simplicity although it is somewhat derivative), but his insistence on using mathematical symbols, parenthesis and misspelling "thru" makes it look like a Radiohead inlay. Predictable use of reverse-metaphor ("the midnight sky shines brighter than the sun"), and tired subject matter (outside world is grey with rain, brightened only by Her beauty). Poor art. Disappointing.

haiku 3: Whaddaya know? A crap haiku. Cuts off abruptly, imagery fails to evoke anything in me. Quite the opposite of haiku 2. Beginning to talk like Rorschach.

poem 3: A big one. Dull subject matter (looking at the lives of people in NYC) not lightened by verbosity. Again, we get words such as "angelic" used more because they look good than because they mean anything. I mean, New York an "angelically restless and spellbound city"? Restless yes, spellbound you could probably sell me on if the subject of the poem was about uncovering that spell (money? the media?), but ANGELIC? NYC? In fact, calling any city "angelic" is absurd since none of the connotations that the word carries could possibly apply to any city, let alone the most famously badass town of them all. You can't just throw these words about without qualification.

Parenthesis and maths symbols continue even (though they) are retarded+annoying. Poor puns that are too wordy to work (the line about transcending and descending).

haiku 4: Boring. Another DNDNDN THIS IS WHAT I IMAGINE IT WOULD BE LIKE TO HAVE A GIRLFRIEND poem. Don't tell us that her eyes are "freezing a moment"; that's what the haiku is supposed to BE - a frozen moment of time. Also, don't say "your eyes, intense" - come up with a way of describing the intensity of those eyes. I'm sure you don't want to read a poem about "your shirt, green". Haiku 2 worked because you said the wind carried your "shells", not your "bodies". See? "Shell" implies both the body and its hollowness, emphasises its fragility and that paradox that it's designed to protect. Choose your words more carefully. The best haikus evoke a feeling, not describe it.

poem 4: So yeah, there's life in everything, including frickin' parentheses again. Obvious ironic contrast between life and dead things. Dull central concept made duller by the tiresome and formulaic layout of the poem. Rather than offhandedly mention a "skeleton-tree" (a cliche in itself), why not explore that tree and descibe how it lives still or - if that's your point - how the life has left it forver. Also, rather thn use the usual "life sucks, ohh cold weather, death angst" crap (you might as well staple a sign to your head saying "I'm a third-rate teenpoet. Ask me how!") why not approach it from another angle? Talk about how life will spring from the tree in, er, Spring. Or how those graveyards left untended can become forests (life growing from the remains of death... come on this is - pun not intended - fertile ground). Death for death's sake is just boring.

Conclusion, to Kev and everyone else: THINK about what you're putting down on the paper or on the screen. Look at each word. Does it get across what you're trying to say? Are you just writing what's there, or are you writing what you want the reader to feel?

Branch out your subjects. Life isn't always grey and miserable, even if you're a teenager. Even Sylvia Plath wrote some wonderfully life-affirming pieces (indeed, they make up about 33% of the Ariel collection).

Also, Mark Rothko uses pretty colours. You might want to follow his lead.

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