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Literary Devices Sample Poem [Critique Workshop]

To the solemn sea the old women come
With their shawls knotted around their necks
With their fragile feet cracking.

They sit down alone on the shore
Without moving their eyes or their hands
Without changing the clouds or the silence.

The obscene sea breaks and claws
Rushes downhill trumpeting
Shakes its bull's beard.

The gentle old ladies seated
As if in a transparent boat
They look at the terrorist waves.

Where will they go and where have they been?
They come from every corner
They come from our own lives.

Now they have the ocean
The cold and burning emptiness
The solitude full of flames.

They come from all the pasts
From houses which were fragrant
From burnt-up evenings.

They look, or don't look, at the sea
With their walking sticks they draw signs in the sand
And the sea erases their calligraphy.

The old women get up and go away
With their fragile bird feet
While the waves flood in
Traveling naked in the wind.

Style / type: 
Free verse
Review Request (Intensity): 
I want the raw truth, feel free to knock me on my back
Review Request (Direction): 
How was my language use?
What did you think of the rhythm or pattern or pacing?
Last few words: 
Here is the literary devices sample poem. Please identify as many literary devices as you can find and list them alongside your critique. Identify what could be different about the literary devices and your reactions to the usage of the devices. Do they add or subtract something from the poem? Should there be more or less or different different devices than what currently exists in the poem based on the mood and tone of the poem?
Editing stage: 

Comments

the personification of the sea as solemn seems appropriate as it reinforces the image I get of the old women.
I have heard the phrase, old cracking bones, but the way it is used here, “With their fragile feet cracking.” I think of hyperbole as I do not think I would hear their feet making such noise if I walked along side of them.

I notice the author uses anaphora in this stanza, as well in the second, the fifth, the sixth, and seventh.

“Without changing the clouds or the silence.” This line kind of takes me out of the poem, because I am wondering, how could they change the clouds? I wonder, even, if you could change silence. Would making a noise change silence??? I don't know.

“The obscene sea breaks and claws” This line is full of personification, but it seems quite contradictory and illogical. Contradictory in the sense that the sea has been presented to me as solemn which carries undertones of being both serious and earnest. This is too big a change in the mood. And illogical in that I can see the waves breaking and clawing, but not the sea.

“Shakes its bull's beard.” I find this metaphor too far-fetched, beyond my capabilities to put into context.

“The gentle old ladies seated
As if in a transparent boat” I also have trouble with this simile because it does not seem to have any function except the desire to add a simile. It seems as redundant as personifying the waves as terrorist.

“The cold and burning emptiness
The solitude full of flames.” If this is meant as oxymoron, I do not have the ability to follow; and if it is meant as paradox, still I do not have the ability to follow.

On reading this, “From burnt-up evenings.” there flashed in my mind Eliot's "Burnt out ends of smoky days"

In the first stanza i can associate fragile feet cracking with old age. But in the last stanza, fragile bird feet is mysterious, as a bird’s feet are not necessarily fragile. Considering size and weight they are probably stronger than a human's.
the last two stanza have quite a bit of alliteration which gives a pleasing effect, but
"While the waves flood in
Traveling naked in the wind." is an image very hard to visualize.

In all, the poem seems to me disjointed, even though it begins with the old women arriving, and ends with them leaving.

T

The most powerful reaction
of mind on mind
is transference of sight

good analysis and critique Tyro
...............................................................

raj (sublime_ocean)

Great detailed response. It is interesting to me that the feet cracking was a sound image to you. I imagined as cracked, dry skin which is typical on the tough skin of the feet. I definitely couldn't see the cracking sound of feet either, maybe popping or crackling joints though.

I also really appreciate your observations on the ways the sea is personified and described, sometimes in a hyperbolic way. I would like to ask: can something solemn not be obscene or violent at times?

For me the personification was strong, the jump from solemn sea to obscene sea in just a few short stanzas did jar me, but it didn't feel contradictory, more like harsh reality. The same sea that violently drowns children who've strayed away from parents and capsizes ships full of sailors can also be a solemn and earnest presence, reminding us how connected we are to the rest of the world even though we are divided by water and can be the same sea that people retreat to in search of summer fun and relaxation and the same sea that so many rely on for food.

In other words, I see these literary devices as showing the different sides to the personification, the different experiences/perceptions that all exist for the same body of water. But that's the thing about literary devices, because almost all of them involve figurative language, they are open to interpretation. What worked for some readers won't work for others. That doesn't mean the reader is wrong or the poet is wrong. Just different interpretations.

So when one reader critiques the solemn versus obscene personifications, and another doesn't, it is up to the poet to decide what seems to be working and what may need attention, which may be an even harder decision to make when critique isn't unanimous. If I were personally going to suggest a change, it wouldn't be to change solemn or obscene, but to somehow ease the transition between the to. Of course, the behavior of the ocean can change very quickly, but in the poem, I think some kind of phrase would make this shift more apparent. Maybe an image or device that shows the old ladies sudden surprise after they are so still and quiet as to not change the silence.

I also wasn't sure about "bull's beard".

Thank you,
Kelsey

Advocates Coordinator

Critique, don't comment.

To see our learning resources, click the "Curated Resources" link under the Resources tab in the top menu bar.

www.kelsey-burroughs.weebly.com

author comment

1) I believe that this poem does not mean that literally the old women have gone to sea. Rather use of the word sea is to create a notion that in the evening of their lives old women are confronted with an avalanche of thoughts [the sea] as also believe it to be the end of journey on earth, hence use of the words fragile feet .

2) "Without moving their hands or eyes" suggests that they are transfixed and focused on the what awaits

3) "Erasing of the calligraphy by the waves" could imply that their footprints of life will be erased over time by fate...

4) "Where will they go and where have they been" about their inner voice trying to connect their past with what will be after life...

5) the stanza "The gentle old ladies seated As if in a transparent boat They look at the terrorist waves" projects a picture of the fear expressed in their eyes that fate is about to capsize their existence

frankly I could not connect with rest of the verses..however overall the poem does create a solemn melancholic mood and a fragile feeling...which the protagonist has attempted to capture in this piece
....................................................

raj (sublime_ocean)

Very good! I did not think of this interpretation, but it does add perfectly to my comment above to Tyro's first response. Just like the literary devices are mostly figurative, the entire poem could be figurative, which you've demonstrated.

I appreciate that you have unpacked what these pieces of figurative language could mean (or what they mean to you). Explaining the poem and/or paraphrasing is a great exercise for readers to get a deeper understanding. You are leading by example here!

Now, if I may ask, for any one of the remaining stanzas that you did not connect with, could you try to identify any single literary device?

For example, do you notice any devices in the following stanza? Not your interpretation of the meaning of the figurative language, but just the devices? Such as personification, irony, alliteration, simile, maybe even something like antithesis or oxymoron?

Now they have the ocean
The cold and burning emptiness
The solitude full of flames.

Thank you,
Kelsey

Advocates Coordinator

Critique, don't comment.

To see our learning resources, click the "Curated Resources" link under the Resources tab in the top menu bar.

www.kelsey-burroughs.weebly.com

author comment

Thank you Kelsey for your remarks on my attempt of identifying and listing literary devices as much as I could

as for the stanza:-

Now they have the ocean
The cold and burning emptiness
The solitude full of flames.

i think it to be a personification of the state of their mind or rather mind space which is in tribulation and intensity thereof

PS: I think one more sample poem could help in this exercise...
.............................................................................................................................................

raj (sublime_ocean)

After reading raj’s analysis I felt inspired and decided I should also try to make a comprehensive assessment of the poem, and not only respond to its parts.

it seems a poem about life. I especially like this image as it is very strong, “With their shawls knotted around their necks”

The second stanza seems a quiet contemplation of life, so all physical motivations are halted.

The third stanza changes the mood. Now the upheavals of life becomes apparent. And the fourth stanza continues this trend of the unruliness of life.

The ‘They’ in stanza fivespeaks of the future and past of our lives;, and I see them as symbol for life. And the reader is included in this “They come from our own lives.”

Stanza six seems to speak of the eve of death. The all from which all comes, and the all to which all returns. Ocean as symbol of this all, this oneness.

Stanza seven says both the good and the bad must meet this end.

If you face death or look away still will it erase your works.

The waves are now clean “naked” ready to regenerate new life.

T

The most powerful reaction
of mind on mind
is transference of sight

Good additions! Thank you!

Kelsey

Advocates Coordinator

Critique, don't comment.

To see our learning resources, click the "Curated Resources" link under the Resources tab in the top menu bar.

www.kelsey-burroughs.weebly.com

author comment

some stuff :

To the solemn sea the old women come.........alliteration "solemn sea", personification sea called solemn
With their shawls knotted around their necks......imagery in describing the women
With their fragile feet cracking......imagery and alliteration

They sit down alone on the shore...juxtaposition(is that the right word?) They can't really be alone
Without moving their eyes or their hands......imagery
Without changing the clouds or the silence.

The obscene sea breaks and claws...alliteration and personification
Rushes downhill trumpeting....imagery and personification
Shakes its bull's beard......personification

The gentle old ladies seated....imagery
As if in a transparent boat....comparison
They look at the terrorist waves......personification

Where will they go and where have they been?
They come from every corner
They come from our own lives......identification

Now they have the ocean
The cold and burning emptiness....juxtaposition "burning ocean"
The solitude full of flames......imagery and juxtaposition

They come from all the pasts
From houses which were fragrant.....sensory imagery
From burnt-up evenings....imagery

They look, or don't look, at the sea.......ambiguity
With their walking sticks they draw signs in the sand.....visual imagery
And the sea erases their calligraphy.

The old women get up and go away
With their fragile bird feet....comparative personification
While the waves flood in
Traveling naked in the wind.....personification

I likely have the tech terms wrong but hope that the intent is still clear

Great work. You've identified a ton! You've found some I've missed too!

As for juxtaposition, I do think that is correct. It's creating contrast, which I think is the key for juxtaposition.

Also, identification as a literary device, like you mentioned, is not one that we often learn about! Great work. I had definitely forgotten about it. Here's information for anyone who would like to learn a little more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Identification_(literature)

Any interpretations/critiques on your part? Did any of these devices stand out for you as weak or strong, adding to the poem, or taking away, confusing, etc?

Thank you,
Kelsey

Advocates Coordinator

Critique, don't comment.

To see our learning resources, click the "Curated Resources" link under the Resources tab in the top menu bar.

www.kelsey-burroughs.weebly.com

author comment

What really struck me was not just the personification but the extreme moral tone of the use of the words 'obscene' and 'terrorist'. Also the fact that those words carry very different weight to those of us who tend to sympathise with those labelled as obscene, like Lenny Bruce, and as terrorists, like Irish Republicans and Palestinians. They are risky word choices. Perhaps purposely provocatively so.
It would make a difference knowing what year the poem was written.

cheers,
Jess
Neopoet Managing Directors, with Richard (themoonman)

Do you really think that Palestinians are terrorists that they're trying to set free their occupied territories in Palestine?
To make it clear, if someone happened to break into your home, what would you do? Just wondering!

❤❤❤❤❤❤

Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words
........Robert Frost☺

I said "Also the fact that those words carry very different weight to those of us who tend to sympathise with those labelled as obscene, like Lenny Bruce, and as terrorists, like Irish Republicans and Palestinians. "

The Palestinians were ruthlessly evicted from their homeland, the Irish fought to reclaim their land from the British invaders and Lenny Bruce was not obscene, he was a genius comedian who broke new ground in subject matters that could be spoken of onstage. I'm sorry for the misunderstanding, that must have been upsetting. No doubt though you have heard ignorant people referring to Palestinians as terrorists because of the media bias against them, especially during the 1960s.

cheers,
Jess
Neopoet Managing Directors, with Richard (themoonman)

It's something we very often miss in our general critique to each other on Neopoet, is that we often have great depths to our work that WE ARE UNAWARE OF OURSELVES, and we are very reluctant to comment on to each other.

cheers,
Jess
Neopoet Managing Directors, with Richard (themoonman)

I think this poem is good. There may be some apparent exaggerations but it helps drive home the point of the futility of their efforts and helplessness of their conditions without entirely painting a picture of sadness and grief.

It also paints a true reality that will meet many at that stage of life. Enjoy it as little as it gets. The good in 'gargantuan' evil.

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