I need your help!

I think anyone who has attempted to write poetry knows that writing something that people enjoy and relate to is like winning the lottery without buying a ticket. Even harder is to show your poems to family and friends, either because its about them and would be uncomfortable to have them critique a poem showing how terrible they were, or because they always tell you that its just so wonderful and that you are basically the next Robert Frost.

I would very much like it if whoever reads this would give me some constructive criticism on this “in progress” poem. Now, I won’t turn down a pat on the back or a “I don’t like this” comment but if you could expound on that it would be much appreciated. Sometimes its nice to be level set as I think we all get a little to close to our writing and forget that, on occasion, it just stinks. So please, hurt my feelings.

Orchard on the Hill

The memory only starts as we are riding
our bikes down the hill. Not a flash of memory
more like a fade in. You and I riding down

the hill to the orchard. You swerved to the left,
I kept going, looked at the shit eating
grin on your face, eyes snapped forward seeing the snake

in the road. Black scales, blood, I rolled over it, legs up,
front wheel no longer in control of itself,
a silent scream that I don't think was all that silent.

I hated you in that moment. I hated you
because only someone who hated me could do that.
I don't remember if I cried, I'm sure I did.

What I remember is your laugh and my relief
to leave that spot in the road, to get back
riding to the orchard, to get to the farm stand

on the hill and buy candy with my brother.


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41 Comments

  1. I like it precisely because the way you describe the feelings makes me feel uncomfortable. Most of my other reactions are personal preferences so I won’t go into them.

    Maybe it’s not deliberate (unlikely) but the first stanza is all 11 syllable lines. To maintain this, in the second stanza, you need to move “grin” back to the second line. Mind you, after that the syllabic consistency sort of disintegrates. Maybe it’s meant to to reflect what you’re describing?

    In that case, maybe aim to return to the 11 syllable lines in the final stanza(s)?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, i was trying to keep roughly the same number of syllables in each line without putting to much pressure on myself to keep it perfect. I would agree I need to dig a little deeper into that.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I can’t really help u with the critism as I believe poetry isn’t good or bad it’s either relatable or not. But finding someone who acknowledge criticism and is not subdued by it is so rare. Great approach! Ur piece is already so beautiful.😍

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Hi there,

    1) I like it. Great length overall and I think that what you were trying to tell was told.
    2) In reading the comment above, I also feel pressure to follow a certain rhythm and pace, but I wouldn’t get too bogged down by that. Sometimes I write poems as if they were essays, or song lyrics with only a few words per line, and then edit from there.

    I keep looking for other things but can’t find any, which most likely means my subconscious mind is pretty much satisfied. Look forward to next version!

    Jason

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I mostly do the same thing. I just start writing then go back and adjust as needed. If it flows with a certain number of syllables or style then great but if not I don’t stress out to much about adhering to any sort of style or structure.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I really enjoyed this, I’ve tried to find criticisms to offer help, but I really like the story you tell and the emotions around it. As Navya said above, I really like your openness to critique too, it really is refreshing! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  5. First off, the textbox is clipped on mobile, so know your device and your audience’s viewing options.

    There’s too much to say as I’m not at a cpu so i promise some criticism later.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I like it because it reminds me of my childhood and similar people in my family. I am not a poetry reader but love this. I relate.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah tense had always been an issue for me. I recently had a poem published but they only would accept it if they could adjust the tense on one of the words. Embarrassing. I agree on silent scream, good suggestion. Is shit* a problem for personal reasons or poetic reasons? I know the saying “shit eating grin” may be a bit colloquial or local to my region.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Bravo to you for having the humility to ask clearly for help! Critiquing poetry is tricky because it can feel wrong to pick apart a living person’s feelings and experiences. But you did ask for it, so…

    The first thing I’d change is in the first stanza: “more like a [flickering].” I feel like this word choice pairs better with the overall style where you clip sentences into the next stanza.

    Second, I would put “grin” on the same line as “shit eating”. It just makes its stronger to me.

    Third, I wonder if this line in third stanza would be improved such as: “a silent scream that [echoed then and echos now.]” It seems like you screamed in your head when you saw the snake, and the scream is still one that you remember but no one else heard.

    Finally, I would drop the “What” in the fifth stanza—because you evidently do remember many pieces of your story—and instead have something like “I do remember your [unmistakable laughter]”

    All in all, you wrote a enjoyable slice-of-life. I’m by no means an expert, and most of my suggestions are probably superficial. However, I hope it provokes the right neurons.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I very much appreciate these comments. I will for sure take these seriously when I start rewriting this. A note on the scream. The scream was actually something that was out loud but i thought was in my head until my brother reminded me it wasnt. Not that any of that matters just thought it was interesting. I really like the flickering suggestion btw.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. 🤝 I’m always happy to help even in a tiny way. And you’re a gracious host in all this. I stand corrected about the snake. I guess replacing the “I” with “you” would get the story across better. Cheers!

        Like

  8. So many emotions in this short piece. I like the fact as I read I vividly seen what was going. The touch of detail helped me to undersrand bow you felt during that time of your life.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. My suggestion is to read about the types of poetry (e.g., cinquain, ballad, haiku) and see which form or structure resonates with you. Such types have certain rules to guide you. Otherwise, free verse it and do what you want. It’s difficult to critique if you don’t establish your own premise. Everyone will have a different level of knowledge of poetry and also general preference, so the feedback you’ll get would be either yes, good going, or maybe if you do a little bit of this and a little bit of that, but I would find it not too helpful. After you’ve established how you want to structure your poem and you’ve chosen the words to fit the criteria, then you will a creation. Any likes and comments will let you know if they liked or disliked your creation. I would hope that anyone who visits my blog does actually read the content and not just press like. There will be some of those. Better not to have a “like” than an insincere like.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I don’t think I’m qualified to give a criticism on poetry… But, hey, it’s good that you are open to constructive criticism. It may be tough, but it will make us be better at what we do.

    It’s an interesting read, however. Keep up the good work.

    I’m sure a lot of the commenters before me have really good advice. Hahaha…

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Orchard on the Hill
    The memory only starts as we are riding
    our bikes down the hill. Not a flash of memory
    more like a fade in. (what are the qualities of a fade in? I always think of the term, “fade” in film to be going outward, like, “fade to black” – end scene.) You and I riding down
    Why is there a space here? For form? (Okay, I read a comment that you were going for something)
    the hill to the orchard. You swerved to the left,
    I kept going, looked at the shit eating
    grin on your face, eyes snapped forward seeing the snake
    “looking at the shit eating” instead of “looked” keeps with tense.

    Don’t be overly concerned with what other people think.

    You have a voice, use your own voice. Unless you are writing in a specific form, such as haiku, then don’t compromise the quality of your piece by the form. I started writing as a spoken word poet on my 1940 Remington Rand typewriter or on a piece of paper, napkin, etc. I mention those articles because I can type very fast on a computer. However, I can also, edit, delete and wipe out something good very quickly on a computer. I like the pace of the typewriter, the visceral feeling of creating something and the tap tap of the keys. I like seeing the mistakes. I like seeing “mistakes” turn into something groovy. Don’t let form put your creative voice into a box. Form is more than the poetic structure. The tools that you use can impact your writing even more than trying to fit to a specific poetic form.

    Writer’s write and poet’s see. As a poet, don’t just tell us your story. Show it to us. Even better, suggest it and allow the reader the opportunity to engage in your writing.

    The memory only starts as we are riding – What are memories? You declare in the next line that it’s a not a flash of memory, it’s more like a fade in. Also, the use of the word, “only” doesn’t seem like a relevant word to the piece (I know, I read that you were going for a form (I think)).
    our bikes down the hill.

    This is my view on the first part of your piece.

    Fading in, spokes twinkling, roaring-
    as we flew downward, to the orchard,
    you and I.
    Swerving, left, your shit eating grin,
    moving on, eyes snapping, seeing
    the snake. Scales, black, bloodied-
    lifting legs, rolling over; silent scream-
    echoing. Out of control.

    That’s just one voice. It’s not your voice. It’s a voice that I used for that piece. It was just easier for me to write that and allow you to see the difference. What you wrote is fine. What I wrote is what I wrote. It’s not a question of better or worse.

    I hope my comments make sense and help you. It takes humility to ask for help. It also shows that you realize that, just because it “came from your heart”, it’s not the best thing since sliced bread. After saying all of that, I still go back to this: Don’t be overly concerned with what other people think.

    Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I liked the poem! My brother and I don’t have a good relationship at all, so I related to this poem quite a bit. As for advice…

    My overall advice is to write as concisely as possible. Generally, the longer a poem is, the easier it is for people to lose interest. Also, fewer words = bigger impact, always. Also, try to always have the last word of a line be a good one. Avoid ending lines on wishy washy words.

    Onto more specific stuff: “Not a flash of memory/more like a fade in.” First part makes sense, “more like” sounds kind of conversational, but the rest of the poem doesn’t. Like in most things, consistency in a poem is important.

    I feel like stanzas 2 and 3 would actually read better without punctuation. They come off as kind of stream of consciousness, which I really like, but then the commas and attempt at organization throws that off.

    “I hated you/because only someone who hated me could do that.” Good sentiment for prose, but for poetry I think you should try to steer clear of abstract ideas. Don’t tell me you hate him, tell me how it felt. It’s like show not tell, except in this case it’s punch in the gut with feelings not tell.

    Also, I guess I’m the odd comment out, because I love swearing in poetry. Sometimes, you need to get crass to make a point.

    Annnd that’s it. I hope at least some of this was helpful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is good stuff. As I recently said I am a “beginner” when it comes to poetry and I have never studied poetry in the conventional sense so these comments have been immensely helpful. This is why I like critique because I learn so much from it.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I enjoyed the flicks of suspense in it. And no Sir, you can’t be the next Robert Frost, 😊😋 but, but, the next you as a great brand of Spandex Kitten 👏 👏 😊😄

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Okay, got it. Rotate phone. Sorry about that. Not good with smartphones. Thanks for figuring it out for me.

      I like the general tone of the piece. There’s not too much wordplay or literary device–it’s quite literal. Consider tossing in a metaphor, possibly for the road or the bikes or the brother? I like how you don’t reveal their relationship until the end. It’s kind of hard for me to understand what the point of the poem is. Hold on, lemme read it again…

      Not a flash of memory more like a fade is too simple and could be made more literary.

      Describe the orchard. As it stands it’s just an orchard tossed aside.

      Shit eating grin is perfect and unique, conveys the loathing of the protagonist for his brother.

      I don’t understand, what did the brother do to the protagonist to merit the hate?

      Just rolling over the snake is a little simple. Something a bout its death could add detail. Connection between death of a venomous snake and imperfect relationships between the siblings?

      More poetry in the buying of candy, please. Contrast the venomous moment with something deeper and sweeter t=between the brothers ,, that which keeps them together.

      Could totally elaborate upon the relationships between all the components. The brothers, sake, orchard, bikes, candy. This poem could easily be 3x as long. On the plus side as it stands it is tantalizing which is good but may leave the reader craving for more.

      Okay wrote this down on an airplane without wifi so rewrote haha and now posting…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you. I like how everyone who has responded hasn’t tried to rewrite the poem but has given advice on how to make it deeper or more poetic. This is another comment I will take into account when rewriting.

        Like

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