poetry critical

online poetry workshop



caffè sospeso
sarahjoie

any feedback would be greatly appreciated!  this is still being revised.

He takes his coffee black
 1
like the color of her hair
 2
after being touched up at the beauty salon
 3
to hide the slight wisps of white and gray
 4
as they encroach on darkness.
 5
 
 
After a rough day, he might add a touch of sugar to his mug.
 6
with an unlit Marlboro between two fingers
 7
his eyes are fixated on the paper
 8
until the words “Suspects In Terrorism Plot”
 9
bear a peculiar resemblance to “Respect Terrace Pot”.
 10
 
 
Later, when grading papers,
 11
he stops to observe her doing physical therapy on the living room carpet.
 12
she raises her leg up and down, slowly,
 13
imagining the muscles growing stronger every day
 14
until a time she can take her silver metallic cane
 15
and stuff it in the back of the hallway closet.
 16
 
 
The next morning before dawn he descends the stairs.
 17
tugging his burgundy robe tight against him, he increases the thermostat
 18
and heads for the kitchen, where an eager-faced mutt greets him, her feet clicking in an odd meter against the tile floor.
 19
 
 
He reaches for the cupboard to discover an empty shelf, once home to a canister of Folgers.
 20
it's now in the garbage can, a few heaps of wet coffee grounds strewn among the rubbish.
 21
 
 
The dog sits politely beside him, ears forward, eyes intent, waiting for breakfast.
 22
he turns and glances at the coffee maker, then back at the furry creature with pleading eyes.  
 23
 
 
On the counter he soon notices a box with the words “I forgot to buy more, sorry” scrawled messily across a post-it note.
 24
within the box, an assortment of tea bags,
 25
rivaling a chocolate sampler at Valentines.
 26
 
 
He recalls the coffee shop in winter `71.
 27
the woman with the dark black hair
 28
ordering a Darjeeling-Ceylon blend
 29
with milk, to go, please.
 30
 
 
After filling the dog’s bowl with food,
 31
he ascends the stairs once again
 32
a cup of hot tea in each hand,
 33
a smile on his lips,
 34
and he enters the bedroom.
 35

8 Feb 07

Rated 9 (9) by 3 users.
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Comments:

this poem just carries you through it so softly you smile inside when you start to understand what's going on (27-30). i like it, i do i do.
 — photobooth

thanks.  any suggestions?
 — sarahjoie

Sarah, this is really lovely -

I hate to quibble about punctuation and as you're still revising, you may have thought of it anyway - I think you could do with a period at the end of line 24, I was momentarily confused, and I dont think you need potentially in line 26.

Lines 3 - 4 i think could do with a slight rephrasing to flow better with the surrounding lines.

Lines 9-10 are hilarious, I love misreadings. Did you intend 'an' as opposed to 'a' in line 10? I think 'a' works better.

There are a few other places that I think would benefit from more punctuation for the purpose of clarification and ease of reading but I'll not go into deatil.

Im intrigued, Is this poem auto-biographical to any extent - i thought it might be until  i read the penultimate stanza - if not, what is it inspired by?

9/10, thoroughly enjoyable.
Will x
 — sisotowbel

Thanks for all of your suggestions!  Feel free to offer any more at any time.  It is based on my parents.  many of the details, such as grading papers, physical therapy, coffee, and black hair are all accurate to their lives.  Just about everything else is fiction.
 — sarahjoie

Amazing poems usually keep me from offering suggestions; I fear I may ruin the quality of the work by over-analysing it. However, since you asked, I'll give you my amateur opinion.

Usually narrative poems are hard to keep from sounding prosey, so try to build sentences around phrases, rather than letting the sentence determine the phrase. The work will write itself from there, the articles and prepositions filling the spaces.

The piece starts incredibly strongly, on a firm and deep-rooting image. Leave the first two lines' image no matter what anyone says.

I don't know how you feel about rewrites; if you like the critique they offer, line-by-line, I'd be ecstatic to do one for you. Just say the word.

Will rate after your response.

Teo.
 — teo_omega11

hey teo-  If you do have any specific suggestions I would greatly appreciate them.  I agree, the first 2 lines were my initial inspiration and in my opinion the best thing about the poem.
I did struggle with the issue of this work being a bit too much on the line between poetry and prose.  I also struggled with finding the "inspiration" after the first two lines, which came so effortlessly to me.  I think the struggle after the first two lines is palpable in writing.
I only wrote this about a week ago so I am thinking I will take some time to let it breathe and then go back in a few weeks and revise again.  However, any line by line suggestions you have or feelings regarding the work would mean so much to me.
 — sarahjoie

Well, here's your line-by-line rewrite, with commentary.

He takes his coffee black
like the color of her hair
after it's touched up at the salon -- to clarify, this is a bit muddy
to hide the slight wisps of white and grey -- grey's the colour, Gray's the surname.
as they overtake the darkness. -- I just don't like the word encroach, it's too overused.


After a rough day, he might add a touch of sugar to his mug, -- brilliant line...
with an unlit Marlboro between two fingers, -- ...especially followed by this one
his eyes fixated on the evening paper -- "are" removes power, adjectives are fun
until the words “Suspects In Terrorism Plot”
resemble “Respect Terrace Pot” peculiarly. -- rearranged for active voice


Later, while grading papers, -- grammatical correction
he stops to observe her physical therapy on the living room carpet. -- "doing" is unnecessary
She raises her leg up and down, with trepidation, -- "slowly" is a weak word.
imagining the muscles growing more resilient every day -- "stronger" is weak too
until the day she can toss her silver metallic cane  -- again, re-arranged for active voice with a few new verbs
in the back of the hallway closet.


The next morning before dawn he descends the stairs.  -- a bit alliteratory, so...
tugging his burgundy robe tight to his torso, he turns up the thermostat         & nbsp;         -- alliteration, if you like it
and moves to the kitchen, where an eager-faced mutt greets him, her feet clicking in an odd rhythm against the tile floor. -- clearer action, and rhythm works better in this context


He reaches for the cupboard to discover an empty shelf, once the home of a canister of Folgers. -- simple reword, aesthetics.
It's now in the garbage can, a few heaps of wet coffee grounds strewn among the rubbish. -- lovely line


The dog sits politely beside him, ears forward, eyes intent, waiting for breakfast.
He turns and glances at the coffee maker, then back at the furry creature with its pleading eyes.  -- clarification


On the counter he notices a box with the words “I forgot to buy more, sorry” scrawled messily across a post-it note. --  "soon" was unneeded
Within the box, there is an assortment of tea bags,  --  made into a sentence
rivaling a chocolate sampler at Valentines.


He recalls the coffee shop in winter `71,
the woman with the dark black hair
ordering a Darjeeling-Ceylon blend
"with milk, to go, please." -- this entire stanza is wonderful


After refilling the dog’s bowl, -- removed extraneous words
he ascends the stairs once again
a cup of steaming, aromatic tea in each hand, --  "hot" is a weak word
a smile playing about his lips, -- more hard-hitting wording for your conclusion
he enters the bedroom. --  the "and" ate all the last line's power


Almost all of this is just opinion or my personal style; just trying to help you along in bringing this piece to its full potential. Even before all the changes, it's phenomenal. Keep writing! =]

Teo.
 — teo_omega11

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