The Poetry Workshop
Your poem “The Whale in my Back Yard,”
lacks sufficient imagery. I want to actually
hear the sounds of the sea, angry men
in mortal combat—we need a riot of colors,
verbs, adverbs, adjectives, and so forth.
Lose the first eight stanzas—they are really
“just information,” anybody can do that.
Great, palpitating, monstrous killer whale
seems rather forced. How about something
simpler, like big fat whale ?
Tubes of blood coursing down Main St.,
what’s that all about? Is blood supposed
to represent the hero’s ambivalence toward
whale meat? And what are camels doing in there?
The line breaks lack authority, and you should
never end a line with a double iamb. Here—
lose the last stanza, make the next to last stanza
the first stanza, after the deleted first eight stanzas.
Take out references to the French Revolution,
no one really cares any more. And, just what
does my callow ex-wife the raging whale killer
refer to? Can this be made clearer?
You have only one really good stanza,
but we deleted it. Have you read Goethe?
Pluto, they’re beginning to talk about you,
something about losing your status as the planet farthest
from our reluctant mother the sun.
After all those solitary years aloft, your reputation
in all the books, nudged aside by some big glob of ice—
so far away, where darkness is the only rule.
And who are we to pronounce your place in the cosmos,
even though each of us is, in the smallest way,
a dying star, far from everything we know.
John Setliffe Bourne lives in New Jersey with his wife, Adele, also a poet. His poetry has appeared in the Asheville Poetry Review, Mad Poets Review, Mississippi Review, Paterson Literary Review, Southern Poetry Review , and U. S. 1 Worksheets. He received the Atlanta Review Certificate of Merit for their International Poetry Competitions 2004 and 2005, and honorable mentions from Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award, Mississippi Review, and Nimrod.