Sunday, March 02, 2008

February Prize Poem

Many congratulations to Leatherdykeuk for the poem, 'Stark Reality'. The conscious use of repetition* is effectively handled in this poem, reinforcing the ideas behind dreams and illusions. The concrete detail illuminates a particular family and creates a strong sense of place to convince the reader of the authenticity of the story being told.

The poem might not be to everyone's taste - there's a hopelessness to it, no real redemption - but I believe that the strongest poems are the ones that engage truthfully with life, and no-one will argue that this poem is not 'true'. When I say true, I mean emotionally true, not necessarily factually true, though the details here will be familiar to a lot of people too.

The narrator of this poem does not feature strongly: he or she observes, but does not judge. Even the last line of the second stanza, which is the closest to any sense of subjective opinion, still retains an element of distance through the formality of the language elsewhere in the poem. It's important to be aware of how 'present' we make ourselves in a poem about other people's lives, and to be careful that we do not use their experiences to aggrandise ourselves in any way. This poem successfully avoids that.

Stark Reality

Albert’s second marriage brought him
a devoted younger wife.
He bought her an ivory dress and a golden ring
and promised her a dream house
of turrets and battlements.

The council flat brought her
the sudden reality of life.
Two stepchildren of indeterminate age
who were legally nine (girl) and twelve (boy)
but cynical beyond their years.

The dream they shared brought them
hope beyond the stained tea cups.
But the sudden fall from grace
when the factory closed down
brought them money for whisky instead.

The postman brought them
letters from Social Services.
Brown paper envelopes and the
termination of supplies and,
ultimately, the last dream they had.


* Some notes about repetition: The term for the same word or phrase repeated in a poem, usually at the beginning of successive lines, is anaphora. A word, phrase or line, that recurs in a poem, only partially, or only at irregular intervals is called a repetend. The term refrain refers to a line, or group of lines, repeated at regular or irregular intervals in a poem, especially at the end of each stanza, e.g. the repeated lines of a villanelle.


Leatherdykeuk said...

Thank you.

margaret said...

Congratulations leatherdykeuk! A very effective poem.