Community Feedback: Cynthia Manick reads Aurielle Marie
Community Feedback is our recurring column that provides an opportunity for our audience to get some quick, free & exceptional feedback on a new poem. Submit your poem here. This month’s guest editor is Cynthia Manick.
This month, we chose Aurielle Marie’s poem, “clippings*”. Thank you to all of our submitters.
Leaping Into the Void
I’ve always believed that one aim of poetry is to create an experience people can understand. To excavate, not with a shovel like a traditional anthropologist, but with a pen. The poet documents how society really works – how our collective minds are shaped, the way we experience love and grief, and the realities behind facts and figures listed in history books and headlines. The poem “clippings” succeeds in that it uses language to explore, provoke, and provide contrasts.
In a workshop former Poet Laureate of Virginia Tim Seibles said “Writing is a living emblem of resistance to silence. Your words resonate globally.” The poem “clippings” interrogates big world concepts like social media, the role of words in a public forum, the political, and human nature. The words sprawl on the page and merge the political with the self, and as the poem persists, you can see the tweets causing the poem to deconstruct and the interjections of poetry gets shorter.
The poem reflects our complex emotions with unconventional imagery and parings. This is a world where apples and vicodin go together; the speaker makes a stew, but it’s a stew of cigarettes; the pillow holds a vibrator and a gun; and a homeless man dies in the cold while you stand over a hot oven. The majority of images in the poem work because they’re concrete and their sharp angles lead to associative leaps. We get nestled above each other phrases like “promises, lying, nuclear” and “great again, possible and guillotine” which creates ongoing tension.
The repetition of “here is an alphabet” is my favorite thing about this poem. What does it mean? Is it saying that these words have intrinsic value? Is it a stop sign telling the reader to halt and pay attention? Or does it highlight the contrast between the shouting tweets and poetry, as if to say those are loud words but this right here, is real literature? It’s all of these things and the repetition becomes a mantra.
There’s also an emotional repetition of the world “damn” that builds as if the speaker is fed-up or has accepted that certain things will be left “dammed”:
damn those creatures
damn this submission to the metal baton
damn the metal
damn the tinsel those tiny car parts those elven blades mispronouncing your inner thigh
HAPPY NEW YEAR TO THE GREATEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD
damn the confetti the shards of popsicle stick
Lastly, we get a repetition of animal elements – we go from boar, to roach, dog, horse, creature, and we end on a fanged mouth trying to speak. This works really well as the toxic nature of the poetic world has affected not just the speaker, but every biological thing around.
Put it on Bed Sheets
When I was graduate school a fellow poet liked a line and said he wanted to put it on bed sheets. So when I think of favorite lines, I ask are they bed sheet worthy? These are lines that stood out with repeated viewing and they serve as launch pads:
- “slicing the belly of a boar”
- “a man dies at this corner you bake bread”
- “the car has folded itself up into the stacks of chrome with your brother inside”
- “threading a tree to its bark”
- “staining/ into oceans at the bottom”
- “elven blades mispronouncing your inner thigh”
- “english doing its slurry work”
- “can muster hands to its fanged mouth”
In the essay Writing as Revision, Adrienne Rich says “Poems are like dreams: in them you put what you don’t know you know.” While I enjoy the leaps in this poem, the way language transitions from actions unfolding like a stream, to the contrasts of the presidential tweets as text, I begin to lose that sense of wonder and discovery. The tweets overtake the last third of the poem with:
HAPPY NEW YEAR TO THE GREATEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD
damn the confetti the shards of popsicle stick the throat pudding
THE GREATEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD
on the television a woman counts the corpses of dead palestinian children
COLLUSION you cry WITH RUSSIA into your cigarettes and turn away
here IS A TOTAL HOAX
The gorgeous and painful line about the dead children is quickly forgotten. The tweets begin to sound like a DJ in a club promoting his greatest hits. This may be on purpose, to reflect how the bombastic tone of the president is overtaking our national consciousness, but the poetic ecosystem is a delicate dance to maintain. With the endnote of “THIS POEM CONTAINS ACTUAL TWEETS FROM THE 45TH PRESIDENT’S PERSONAL TWITTER HANDLE. TRULY.” The poet almost achieves that balance.
In revision the poet should rethink the title. “clippings” is small and diminutive which is the opposite of the work the poem is doing. Titles provide a frame and help the reader navigate the experience. Think of it as a door to an eccentric mansion or funhouse. Without a door, the reader will wonder aimlessly with no direction. This poem is almost done as it melds aim and heart. But the poet should also remember that white space is a part of the poem and its pacing, because visually the poem needs more breath. Lastly, the poem is filled with striking concrete images that work really well but those are overtaken by the shock value tweets.