Monday, October 8, 2012

I haven’t heard you in a while

They return from exile,
no longer singing their songs of
desire, frustration, sorrow, elation,
instead singing of
and shutting the fuck up.

I haven’t heard you in a while,
and I missed you.


  1. Hello Andrew, thanks for posting!

    This is your first poem post, *drumroll*, no pressure! The title you’ve chosen seems to play an important role in seeing the rest of your poem. The poem begins with “I haven’t heard you in a while,” which is interesting in the way it seems to deviate from a stereotypical poetic title. First of all, it’s unique that you chose to separate ‘a’ from ‘while,’ I’m assuming for emphasis. The title is dialogic, and for me as the reader, creates an expectation for some aspect of the poem to be conversational. The conversational attributes in the poem do occur as implied towards the end of the first stanza and the last:

    and shutting the fuck up.
    I haven’t heard you in a while,
    and I missed you (7-9).

    It’s indicative to me, that the sense of minimalism that is implied towards structure and the overt conversational nature of the poem is its driving force. The tone of the poem is casual and contemplative. At the beginning of the poem, the speaker brings more than one individual to life and into the picture: “They return from exile, /no longer singing their songs…” (1-2). The description of these individuals is vague, and since the speaker doesn’t focus primarily on who “they” (1) exactly are, a stronger importance is placed on the other events occurring around these individuals. The speaker is initially aloof and creates mostly objective observations. The speaker is not directly involved until his or her opinion is blatantly created towards the end of the first stanza which employs the speaker’s existence and adds to it, a stylistic vocal attribute like satire. Due to this recognition, a sense of humor related to the speaker’s perspective rises out of the concluding observations and a sense of lyricality persists throughout the poem.

    The speaker is presented in the first person point of view with emotional perspectives like “love” (5) or “desire, frustration, sorrow, elation” (3), and stylistic attributes concerning the speaker’s own voice such as humor is involved. Also, until the concluding lines of the poem, the speaker addresses the reader from the first person perspective; these things listed identify a lyrical poem that feels naturally dialogic and considers social, emotional themes. I think that especially with the last line of the poem, “and I missed you” (9), that the content is successful and feels well concluded or ‘finished.’ It can be difficult to truly add an end to a poem, or to create a sense of completion in so few lines that poetry has to offer—but I think you do this very well here.

    The poem is written in two stanzas that are not numerically equivalent, and this adds to the casual nature of the content. The line lengths are not visually symmetrical and there is no apparent rhyme scheme. I think the separation of the last stanza of two lines was an important stylistic choice as it emphasizes the concluding message, and supports the poem’s title. I think this is a great first poem that you’ve posted, and it’s also a positive thing that your content fits in well with the first half of the class where we focused on social consciousness. Your speaker pays detailed attention to his or her emotional environment and is aware of the similar state of people around him/her. I look forward to seeing more poetry from you, and hopefully your occasional-minute-peeping of the poetry anthologies you have will be slightly compelling for future posts :)


  2. Thank you very much for that detailed critique.

    This poem is not only the first piece of poetry I've written in around a decade, but also the first piece of creative writing that I've put in even a semi-public space, and unlike my last attempts at poetry, I haven't felt at all embarrassed by its content. Several people have now responded to it, and it's been very interesting to hear what they've said. At the same time, it's been a little frustrating, and I was hoping that with all of your poetry-sharing experience, you might clue me in to how I should feel about this.

    Knowing the source of inspiration and the particulars of the subject matter, when I read my poem I feel a particular set of emotions, and I feel proud of all of the ways I managed to express those in such a short space. Nobody else, though, seems to have grasped even what I'm talking about (although you didn't comment on meaning or content, so who knows). I suppose I shouldn't be surprised given how cryptic I accidentally was (it seems so obvious to me!).

    At the same time, I'm not sure I should be concerned with how it's interpreted by the reader. I've always been a fan of applying my own meaning to song lyrics in a way that the writer could've never intended, simply because it's so specific to my own life. So I haven't really pushed anyone to get the meaning right, but without the meaning in place, much of what's going on can be easily missed.

    So it's this push and pull between wanting the poem to be appreciated for what it means to me and what it means to the reader. What do you think about all of that?

    1. Hello Andrew,

      I think you pose some really interesting questions here. It seems to me, that you are concerned with your relationship to the content of your poetry as a writer, the contextual meaning of your content but also how others perceive it, and the question of balance between the two.

      Whether that's the case, I'd like to note that it's a good thing you feel good about your writing here; being satisfied with what we put down on paper can also be a difficult feat since sometimes, things never really feel concluded. Also, to be happy with the form of expression you put down on paper is indicative of a writer's voice and persona. In terms of development this is also a good thing and I think you are heading in the right direction as far as finding out how exactly you like to write.

      In assessing the meaning of your content, it's important to note the difference between the speaker and the writer himself. I'm not sure if this is something you've noticed while perusing through various long-winded responses of mine, but when assessing someone else's work, it's reactionary (and preferred) to consider all “I's” involved as the 'speaker.' Using this route for analysis, there's a place for distinction in assessing more than one persona an author might be attempting, since it is always possible a writer's speaker is very different from him or herself. Also, especially when composing around difficult or emotional themes, there's a sense of freedom and acknowledgment in that freedom that writers tend to avoid directly associating a speaker to his or her writer. Mostly for rules of engagement, since of course in our minds, we always wonder quietly “who” the speaker truly is to any writer. To add to what you were saying, being ambiguous in writing is not always a bad thing. It adds an aura of mystery that we as readers like to unravel or think through, and sometimes we don't always like our content handed to us.

      However, if it's meaning through your content that you're after, maybe a way for your audience to garner the meaning you as the writer have intended, a certain level of specificity is required. Usually, if a poem's content is incredibly vague, then that tells me as a reader that the writer is uncomfortable with others directly analyzing his or her content. To me, it creates a strength in other areas of a poem and I will instead focus on that instead of 'wracking my brain.' I say this mostly from experience and a little from assumption. Like I said though, that small amount of specificity will do wonders for your audience and they will take the bait in unraveling what it is you have going on in the poem. I mention specificity at all, because your poem says a lot about social interaction, dialog, and emotional expression. If your poem were purposely abstract and intangible, a direct analysis would be up for consideration without a second thought because ambiguity is abstraction's purpose. As the writer, it would mean putting yourself out on a limb (at least, a little more so) in order to let that emotional expression really fly. It would mean acknowledging a possible sense of vulnerability in order to really fulfill your textual expression because truth is often created through specificity.

    2. (continued)

      Having said that-- there's a wide sense of vulnerability that can occur while assessing certain themes in writing, like emotional or personal topics, and it's common for a writer to acknowledge that there will still be a level of security or stability in his or her textual presentation. It's through that vulnerability that writers take a step out of their comfort zone while saying, “Yes, this is my individual speaker who may or may not relate to who I am as a person. It's up to you as the reader to understand their role and to know that although the speaker might truly be me, the writer, you will still assess my poem for what it is and how it appears on paper as an artistic moment in time rather than stepping into my personal space and pinning the speaker on me.”

      You mention more about meaning, with wanting to appreciate something for the meaning you glean from it but also, pushing others to truly understand the meaning you are trying to provide. I think the result of this thing really has to do with good analysis. Good analysis, given the proper grounds, will be able to consider all of the above. I think in a separate note, I will assess what exactly is going on in your poem from a content-related point of view. If most people can understand what is going on with the speaker in the poem, even if you quietly know the speaker is you or someone you know, then I think you've made your message. I think this push and pull with the meaning others gather and the meaning you yourself intend is an eternal sort of struggle, honestly. It will happen with any poem you write that isn't completely laid out, and most poems are rarely handed to us. I think it's just something we as writers need to expect unless there's a ridiculous level of specificity involved in our writing-- which let's face it, doesn't always make an amazing poem.

      I can understand your accidental ambiguity-- this is such a possible thing when writing from a first person point of view without an intense amount of detail. I will say though, one of the first questions you will hear from a workshop is, “I want to know who they are, in this poem. Who are these individuals that the speaker does not name, and why are they important to the speaker?” I think these are some questions you should consider when contemplating your poem. The reader will want to know the characters they are getting close to, and without disclosure, will create a temporary reality out of even the most fictive of characters. Does this answer your questions? Feel free to point me in another direction if need be :)


    3. Really interesting stuff here. I appreciate you writing this out for me. Lots of food for thought.

  3. In addition to style and structure from my previous post, I will assess content here. The speaker seems to be an observant and emotionally aware individual. In both stanzas we see the speaker's contemplative thought process which seems to revolve around “They” (1), two or more individuals who have “return[ed] from exile” (1) in a somewhat changed state. The changed state of these individuals is not physically dramatic, but seems to speak of an intangible change-- one that appeals to emotional state. The speaker notes several of these changes where “desire, frustration, sorrow, elation” (3) transition into “love” (5) and “liberation” (6).

    Due to the nature of the dialog occurring in the poem: “and shutting the fuck up” (7), there is a distinct personal level of interaction placed within social context of the poem. The individuals involved, “They” (1), who are predisposed to be open and communicative with the speaker in that particular manner, seem to imply a close relationship. The words “desire, frustration” (3) and “love” (5) are associated with being dualistic and interactive. The descriptions imply that the individuals the speaker describes are romantically involved with one another or in the least, share the same interests. These individuals appear to be close friends or co-workers to the speaker, with whom the speaker feels a social, emotional tie: “I haven't heard you in a while, /and I missed you” (8-9).

    These individuals (two or more) have left the speaker temporarily, perhaps to go on some sort of vacation or maybe they have simply been busy and are finally touching base with the speaker once more. It's clear to me, that these individuals could be either male or female, friends or co-workers, the speaker's boss or pair of authority figures, or even individuals that are consistent in social media with whom the speaker feels he or she resonates with. The speaker could be human: male or female, but could also definitely be a cat or dog. Cats can be very vocal, hence the “shutting the fuck up” (7) and “I missed you” (9) parts. The same could be said about a dog-- possibly without the bacon >:}.

    The speaker discloses this information I think, intending his or her original message: “I haven't heard you in a while” which to me, implies this poem is a statement of emotional contemplation-- a positive change in environment that comes with the return of these individuals, and different forms of acknowledgment from the speaker. The content of the poem appears with an implied perspective-- “I missed you” (9) which brings to question, the social and emotional security of the speaker. The perspective in the poem implies a sense of extroversion from the speaker's position, in that he or she has felt the temporary loss of these individuals before seeing their return. I think that in a sense, this type of 'negative space' that the speaker creates emphasizes the resolution and confession at the end of the poem.

    The questions that come to mind while directly assessing content are: Who are “they?” From what stance do they express the emotions mentioned in the poem? How do they sing of love and liberation, and with what particular humor, do they express themselves within the 7th line of the poem? Why does the speaker miss these individuals, and is it the negative space or the non-existence of these people that emphasizes the message at the end of the poem, or is it the “having” of them that ultimately implies these feelings?

    I like the ambiguity present in your poem, but there's definitely room for expansion which would ultimately make a more lengthy poem. I think with the emotional lyricality present in the poem and additional narrative information, that the content would be more tangible and would give even more life to an already interesting speaker.

    1. It would certainly take expansion if I were to be more specific. The struggle you've described between writer's expression and reader's interpretation did not end where I wanted, and as I've tried to imagine a version of the poem where the subject matter is more clear without beating the reader of the head with it, I only see it getting longer. Which might not be a bad thing necessarily, but it would certainly require a rewrite. The paragraph of questions you've asked actually causes a few green shoots of ideas to poke through, so I suppose the material is there.

      At this point I would consider this a work in progress that you're now involved with, so I'm going to go ahead and just tell you what the inspiration for this was. It feels a little like I'm ruining it, but shit, I'm a newbie. I figure it's like showing someone your hand in your first game of poker and saying "Is this good?"

      The big key that isn't expressed enough is the use of personification. "They" are the long list of songs I discovered while dating my ex, which were then tied very directly to the emotions I felt during that relationship (desire, frustration, sorrow, elation). A while back I very literally exiled them from all of my playlists (into one I jokingly called "Exile"), and it's only now that I can go back and listen to them and think not of the relationship, but instead of their individual, respective meanings, on topics like love (, liberation (, and shutting the fuck up ( And as I listened to this list of around 50 songs, some of which are on my short list of absolute favorites, I was *so* glad they were back in my life, back from exile. That much I wanted to communicate: How the meaning of these songs changed, and how happy I was to have them back in my life.

      I'd like very much to try this poem again and be just a little more specific. I'll post it here when I do, and it'd be cool if you could tell me how good (or bad) a job I do of it. Thank you so much for the time you've spent on this.

    2. Now knowing your intended personification, I have to say that is really cool actually. I don't think you're ruining it or dumbing it down in any way; after all, disclosure is sometimes an important part of the writing process like you said, for getting it down. I think the concept you're trying to relay-- the changing state of songs and their respective meanings is something unique, and I definitely notice the presence of a “change in emotional state” throughout the poem. This much you are able to relay through what you've given the reader, so the expansion would continue onward only to help that display. Also, It's great you've given the speaker time to express how they feel about this return; this is almost always an important question to ask, but it's already been answered.

      Perspective and transition are key parts of your content, I think, and that intended personification is great because it's totally unexpected. Letting the reader in on your unique sense of perspective will really float the poem on, rather than ruining its mystery. I will definitely look at other drafts you come up with, and I think this is a great start! Also, the music is a really interesting part of all this. I know it's a big part of the inspiration, but it's neat to know that in a sense, you're using lyricality to respond to lyrics. It's nerdy meta-cognitive fun, for me. Lyric by far, is the foundation for poetic emotional expression associated with that outpouring of thought. I think it'd be beneficial to the context of the poem if we found a way to directly involve the music itself, or those videos you posted. Because of the involvement of music in this textual space, the poem is on the border of being very interdisciplinary as far as musical intervention-- which is what the humanities is all about >:D

    3. The smallest change I could make along those lines would be to make lines 5-7 hyperlinks to the songs I posted. I almost did that when I originally posted it on the blog, and sort-of want to do it now. But it feels a little like a gimmick or a crutch. I would much rather the poem stand on its own, without aid from the interwebs. But it would provide a hell of a hint in terms of who "They" are, and would probably make the poem feel that much more personal, since I'm telling you "These are it. These made this poem."

      And your first sentence there, "this is really cool actually," is what I was frustrated about! I kept thinking "There's so much going on. If only they *knew*."