poetry critical

online poetry workshop

Self Portrait of A Wordy Child

I'm told I have a democratic voice -
I strive so others understand
the things I speak and write,
or is it just that I found out
the simplest route
is very often plotted
in the most convoluted way?
When I was small
some snotty, snippy silly
neighbourhood girls
refused to play with me
because they said
they couldn't comprehend
the labyrinthine things I'd say.
All day long I'd listen
to their silly nursery rhyming:
Dip and dip and blue and ship,
bad and sad and good and bad,
words that didn't matter
filling up familiar space
with endless freckled chatter.
I spot them still
on the street, in a shop, in my mind
looking vexed and wrong
because they never grasped -
no-one finds their way
out of the tangled maze
if all they ever learn to sing
are soppy, sentimental songs.

20 Feb 06

Rated 9 (8) by 9 users.
Active (9): 2, 7, 9, 10, 10
Inactive (14): 1, 5, 5, 6, 7, 7, 8, 8, 8, 8, 8, 9, 10, 10, 10, 10, 10

(define the words in this poem)
(74 more poems by this author)

(6 users consider this poem a favorite)

Add A Comment:
Enter the following text to post as unknown: captcha


break after line 25? there's a change in tone there. Like it, takes me back to those hazy childhood days when all your classmates looked at you blankly every time you said  aword which had more than two syllables. aaaahhh, the pretentious raging of poets. thanks, good piece.
 — Trish77

This is a bit long breathed, but It's absolutely fantastic...excellent piece, lost the subtle rhymes aswell. :)
 — xerda

Good poem. don't change a thing.
 — gingerdave

Wow. This is damned good!   Indeed, there 's not a jot to be altered about this fine, fine declaration of independence.   The "truth" of the closing statement might be questioned, but no- that's not the point.  The point is that the poem is coherent and musical and it -makes a stand and empowering position for itself.   I'm impressed.  Damn fine work.  No gush, just the facts.   Thank you.  Reid
 — netskyIam

Thanks Trish - I think a dash would be good here, so I'm putting that in - see what you think - I love dashes! Glad you picked up that the poetic voice isn't being too hard on the non wordy ones - just both coming from opposite ends of the spectrum and victims of an unfair system,


 — unknown

The long breathed is the wordy child's modus operandi xerda - the rhymes are in there - I tried to keep 'em subtle - honest! Thanks,
 — opal

I'm warming to you ginger.
 — opal

Dear Opal

You have said so much about some peoples childhood in this breathtaking poem It so affected me ,making me recall all the times i questioned myself hearing the discordant words of others that sounded odd or not right at all and naievely thinking that really underneath everyone felt the same. Its a long hard road to travelled to reach an accomodation with the world and it always seems that the compromises made are one sided but as you have pointed out  many of those grown up kids stayed ina tangled maze. great structure and lyricism ,no self pity,just looking it straight in the eye and telling it like it is. Very accomplished work from a knowing person.

 — larrylark

Wow Opal.  Is it okay with you if I print this and share it with my 10 year-old son?  I think this will ring for him.

Favorites are: democratic voice and looking vexed and wrong/
 — housepoppy

I love the lines 18-19, so simple yet so much in depth. I like the overall idea. I do think some line breaks are needed.Self Portrait of A Wordy Child  

I'm told
I have
a voice  

I strive
so others get
the things
I speak

I found out  
the simplest route  5
often plotted  
in the most
convoluted space  

I was small
some snotty,
stawberry shortcake  
shortage in subtance
kind of girls
refused to play
with me  

they couldn't get
the labyrinthine(word choice, cose simpler) things I'd say.  
All day I would listen
to their nursery songs
Dip and flip and blue and ship
bad and sad and good and bad
words that didn't matter  
filling up familiar space  
with endless freckled chatter
I see them    
on the street,
in a shop,
in my mind still
looking lost
in their thoughts
they never grasped  
no-one finds
their way  
out of the tangled maze

I probably butchered your poem, but i wanted to show you a different way to approach the poem. Uum, since this is about a wordy child, i thought the language should be simple, the word choice, so when the reader reads it they can allow themselves to go back into time and feel what this poem is saying to them.

good luck! like i said i love your concept.

 — manishas

Thanks reid - I particularly like the 'no gush' bit because that's one of the things I try to do most - to convey strongly felt emotion without hyperbole or unnecessary sentimentality - sometimes I think I go a bit far the other way - also thanks for the musicality - I did want some rhythm and cadence in there,

 — opal

Thank you larry - I'd like to know what  it is you think I know, lol, but a comment that touched my heart. The poem is for everyone who felt/feels just that little bit out of step as you so eloquently point out.

 — opal

Housepoppy - I'd be really happy for you to share this with your son - it was finding other people's feelings expressed largely through their poetry when I was his age and older that helped me at least start to find a way out of the tangled maze - tell him not to be too hard on those who don't even start on the first pathway,

 — opal

Hi manishas,

I really do appreciate what you've done - and you've given me plenty to think about. I understand how you want the words to stand out on their own individual lines and I admire that technique - I feel it allows words to resonate very effectively - I also like some of the new word combinations you've chosen - leave it with me and I'll have another go in a more minmalist style; thankyou for such a thoughtful critique and rewrite,

Best, xxx
 — opal

dislike the title, love the poem
 — inutile

Thanks.  I'll share it with him tonight.
 — housepoppy

I read this to my son last night.  He said "Hey, that reminds me of me... except for the girls."  He asked me to tell you thanks and that he loves your poem.
 — housepoppy

Oh, and it reads very well.
 — housepoppy

david foster wallace calls these snootlets.
 — britta

I really think you should try to get this published.
 — Trish77

And I don't say that very often...
 — Trish77

i like.
 — aaaargh

Reminds me of myself when I was younger... hell, people still won't telk to me. :)

Wonderful piece, keep up the good work.
 — unknown

Self Portrait of A Window Cleaner?
 — Meep

A brilliant poem. I love L24 and 26 & 27. Really one of those poems that I think everyone should read, because it probably applies to, in part, everyone.
Thankyou for sharing this poem, its going to ba a definite favourite.
 — Kellie_Fern

Hi Opal,

This poem I think is bit like the curates egg, good in places.

I cannot with all with honesty say I liked the democratic voice, it did not sound at all democratic to me.

I see you have slipped back into your old habit of over indulgence in the indefinite article.

Line three, is a bit of a three-legged donkey you know one of those things that are neither use nor ornament.

Line six, very is just a little bit superfluous, don’t you think.

Lines eight to fourteen you appear to have a conflict in tenses
You appear to go from being very small to a tense of I’d say..
It is a difficult line to come terms with especially in what they said
No wonder they had difficulty comprehending.

Maybe their hearing was not too good, it being of labyrinthine things
Line fifteen, I would have put a comma after long, but you know me I put them everywhere.

Line sixteen Did you really mean it was the nursery which was rhyming

Lines seventeen and eighteen   you slipped up badly there, you could have made hay with those two.
What a missed opportunity, never mind.

Line twenty-five is bit of a dodo even the dash did not save it.

Though I must admit, I do like the dash if nothing else.

I would give this one five, it needs tidying up quite a bit.

I am glad Hear to that you may be considered as one of the poetry judges on this forthcoming Anthology I would certainly recommend you.

 — Mor

It seems that every seventh line is a natural ending point that might merit from a line break afterwards. Lines 7 and 14 rhyme, but I didn't notice until I went through looking for natural places to insert line breaks; adding a break would highlight the rhyme there. But it would make the last stanza 8 lines long, but I think that would be OK.

I love the repetition of "dip and dip and blue and ship, / bad and sad and good and bad". At first I was going to suggest that you replace the repeated words with other rhymes, but then I realized that was your point -- how impoverished their language usage is.

What happened to your oyster villanelle? I wanted to reread it, and it's gone! Did you change "opaque" to "pallid," or leave it as opaque?
 — leukothea

This is absolutely fantastic. Cheers.
 — xChelseax

*sighs* I agree completely. Those kind of songs are my least fav. Well written Opal...though this poem is longer than many of the most popular, I thought it was great. Well written Opal! Like it very much.
 — MrChris

love it!
so true, stated with perfection.
 — sparrow

I wouldn't mess around with the mechanics of this one, the delivery is original and concise and sets home a theme I very much enjoyed exploring. (8)
 — Mithrandir

Somehow you managed to put into words what I was thinking not too long ago. I loved how you pulled this off.
 — Nostalgia

i like this alot
 — Crescent

 — unknown

mmm lugubrious  
 — unknown

last unknown - not at all - so wide of the mark, it bounced off the brickwork.
 — opal

mendacious and desultory
 — unknown

said the dick with the head, Mendacious? You, who have built a life on lies, are the silly, stupid nursery song that doesn't matter, and that, el stupido, will be your only claim to fame.
 — unknown

 — unknown

Top Rated (expand)
Newest (expand)
  • Insmonia
  • as religion
  • Ancestral
  • But 14 Lines
  • //after a friday night at Southport//
  • mermaids
  • Intel Inside
  • Drama School
  • A Fight in Traffic
  • Walking Inside a Cave
  • untitled promise
  • Dead Deer, 100 Degree Night
  • Learning to Walk
  • Professionalism (II)
  • For my own god damn sake just hear me out
Recently Commented (expand)
  • hey baby-OVERHAUL
  • messing with perspective
  • Insmonia
  • as religion
  • finally
  • Perfection/Madness/Death (Now "Condensed Trilogy")
  • //after a friday night at Southport//
  • Digital Craft
  • Learning to Walk
  • Morality
  • Visions
  • //for ivan//
  • //at the drug house on van-buren//
  • Intel Inside
  • Dead Deer, 100 Degree Night
Recent Best (expand)
  • 1. //for ivan//
  • 2. //at the drug house on van-buren//
  • 3. \\ Now The Cat's Got No Whiskers \\
  • 4. Dead Deer, 100 Degree Night
  • 5. mark'd
  • 6. Returning Home
  • 7. hank and i press our hands
  • 8. This Is Your Last Chance
  • 9. the impoetic man
  • 10. You Kissed Like a Prostitute
  • 11. From Worthy to Wanton and Not a Bit of Shame
  • 12. Tantric Loom
  • 13. An open letter to my ancestors, circa 874 A.D.
  • 14. on haiku
  • 15. Burn Down Summer