Thursday, February 24, 2011

Poetry Fail

Today, we were supposed to workshop the first poem I submitted in my Poetry Writing class. This was supposed to happen a couple weeks ago, but eh, extenuating circumstances. Anyway, today got very messed up very quickly. Once the chaos subsided, it was learned everyone had their critiques for me, so I accepted them and resolved to read through them later. We went through class, work shopped my second poem (I got a lot of great suggestions), and that was that.

I got home a while ago and started browsing through the first set of critiques. One stopped me in my tracks.

I haven't been posting my poems for work shopping on here because I haven't wanted anyone in my class to see them early. I'll eventually put them up, but this one definitely calls for some editing first.

But back to that critique. The poem I wrote is an emulation of the sonnet Elizabeth Bishop wrote in 1979, just before she died. In it, I philosophize about a man gazing into a mirror, then setting himself free from the temptation of vanity by breaking it. Anyway, I use several "big words" in it. One of these is the cause for concern, and yes, embarrassment. In my mind, the Latin word for mirror is speculum. And speculum therefore = mirror. I needed another word for mirror, so that is the one I chose. What I neglected to remember is that a speculum is also a gynecological instrument. You know, that scary ratchety clampy you know?

Anyway, I was breezing through this critique. The first half was full of compliments and yadda yadda. Then I got to paragraph two. Let me quote from it for you. I won't mention the name of the person who wrote the critique to spare them any shame I might accidentally bestow regarding this matter.

"Also, on my first read, I did not know what a speculum was. I Googled it and the first image that popped up was an anatomy diagram of a woman during a gynecological exam. After seeing that, I can only think of gynecologists every time I read through your poem. I'm not sure what message you were trying to get across with the use of the speculum, or if maybe it was the first piece of medical equipment that came to mind, but if that choice was unintentional, you may want to pick a different instrument, since I'm probably not the only person who didn't know what a speculum was. Other than that, I thought your poem was great."

When I read it, I burst out laughing. And then I cringed as my cheeks flushed. And then I felt like crying. I was a failure at poetry. In an attempt to write a beautiful, artistic look at the anguish people feel by being trapped by self-image, I brain farted away any chance I had at that, leaving my poem as an awkward look at women's yearly exams.

To you, wise critic of my poem, I apologize. I was most certainly not trying to think of a medical instrument, and even if I was, I wouldn't want to choose that one. I think most women who go in for yearly exams know exactly what it is, and I have no idea why my mind forgot the second meaning.

At least it's only a draft. Right?