Friday, February 08, 2008

A Caralynetry Critique

First you should read the poem, (if you click the title it should come up in a new browser window for easy reference): " (Twelve Lines Minimum)".

At first blush this poem with its parenthetical title and the varying line lengths seems a bit ragged. And is there a rhyming scheme here or not? But with an opener mind (or "a more open mind", if you want to be grammatically correct, but you may re-think that in just a moment here...) the more freeform rhyme and meter scheme better reflects the uncongealed mind of a blossoming child. Or put more simply: in the end, it works.

What I really like about this piece, though, is the pacing. The way it really accelerates in the last two lines, up until you have to put the brakes on at "plead" since the "p - p" alliteration ("power plead") is tough even on a mental tongue. But the pacing magic starts earlier, right from the first couplet. It feels like it's going to be nursery rhyme sing song-y:

"Patience is an important skill.
La-dee-da, jack and jill."

Instead we get the commanding word "attention," with a pausing comma, before the first rhyme ever kicks in. (I can't help but hit the syllables of "attention" hard, like Chrissie Hynde sang it for The Pretenders' "Brass in Pocket" back in 1979.) And, by the way, it's not a first couplet, but an (unexpected) triplet!

Then here comes "torture". What kind of child's poem is this? Well, I already know that it's a punishment poem, an extra assignment that must be a minimum of twelve lines long; and is in fact exactly twelve lines long, the shortest of which is just the one 3 letter word "you". But it needed to be its own line -- it wasn't put by itself only as an "Up yours!" to the assigner, but the dig is delivered all the same.

It's a line by itself because the forced rhyme using the made-up-but-fitting word "scorcher" precedes it. ("Don't let it scorcher you;" as in don't let them burn your butt -- another sentiment along the lines of "Question Authority" or "Illegitimi non Carborundum"). That one word line, "you." forms a bridge to the second half of the poem, like the instrumental interlude of a 1960's pop song. One more quick verse, again with the twist away from the nursery rhyme couplet, to a strong rhyme of "very rude" and "altitude" with a nice metaphor rising ("Lower your altitude"), rather than the would've-been-trite "Adjust your attitude." Then we build steam like the little-engine-that-could: "I can try, I can succeed. Just let your will power plead" That is, it's gonna take some fortitude, but it's in you, if you'll only listen to yourself.

(Okay so I'm a little biased as the father and privy to extra insights, but hey.)
(Also, in writing this I learned that "Illegitimi non Carborundum" is not really Latin, but an example of what has been termed a "mock-Latin aphorism". And me with two semesters of Latin at University. Oh well. Carpe diem!)

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