Join the Neopoet online poetry workshop and community to improve as a writer, meet fellow poets, and showcase your work. Sign up, submit your poetry, and get started.

Trade (Story-Telling In Verse)

The old ones were good at makin’ lives for themselves,
the back swamps of New Orleans
made some mean fuckers that never gave up.
They didn’t need those needles
or dead flowers to get by in the world
like the young today.

I guess that’s why I don’t mind makin’ trades.
It’s all about the opportunities!
That’s what white-folk and movies
don’t know:
It’s all about the opportunity and trade.
We never went around
slicin’ up babies and eatin’ their brains,
or holding crucifixes up-side-down
and chantin’ Leveyian gibberish.
Magic, it ain’t about that,
and it’s never been about death.

But that’s what all them big producers
want ever’one to think,
makes them money;
keeps them strong.
‘Cause if you don’t know the rules,
you can’t play the game.

It’s true some people
deserve life more than others.
In my line a’ work you see it everyday:
junkies slippin’ dirty needles into bruised veins,
scammers who come around
my way and convinced
poor old Miss Letty
to leave all her money
to that church of Scientology.

Old girl was a devote Catholic
all her life! I’d bring her the communion
bread an’ wine from Our Lady every Sunday
and we’d both listen to the mass on the radio.

You know who deserves life
and who doesn’t when you’re a nurse
(again it’s about opportunities!)
You also know this,
when you know the Sin-Eater.
John’s a good-fella,
and he quite approves of what I do.
Like me, he knows
that magic isn’t about sacrifice
but trade.

Style / type: 
Free verse
Review Request (Intensity): 
I want the raw truth, feel free to knock me on my back
Review Request (Direction): 
What did you think of my title?
How was my language use?
What did you think of the rhythm or pattern or pacing?
How does this theme appeal to you?
Last few words: 
I think this reads way too much like a short story.
Editing stage: 


Perhaps I mis read what the exposition is supposed to tell because I find
Background yes it is there . But where is this poem(story) going to lead
drugs, the occult, etc, the treatment of people
or you (being a nurse and having to see it all) My respect to you for that alone.

I do not follow where the story line is going to take us. Perhaps there is to much information for this first phase and perhaps I have gotten it all wrong, but that is why I am here to learn

Let your mercy spill on all these burning hearts in hell(Leonard Cohen)

This really needs some major revising and re-writing:)!

author comment

First, you mentioned it sounded too much like a short story. I agree. The language is good, but there is none of the so called "music" that makes poetry. Everyone here knows I'm not the biggest fan of free verse, but I recognize it can be a powerful tool in writing poetry and I have read much that took my breath away.

However, as I mentioned earlier, the moment someone starts to tell a story in their verse the tendency is to dive into The Great Black Pit that is prose. Your piece is extraordinarily well written, but if I were to take the line breaks out few would call it "poetry". This also I have mentioned. The workshop is "Storytelling in verse." There are two components then. A tale and poetry. I have recently read some of your posts, so I know there is a poet here. You have simply fallen into a pit that I've seen inumerable poets fall. You said "story" and the poet slept. 

The Exposition is good, but incomplete. When our exposition is complete it should give the feeling that the reader is at a starting gate. The bell rings and we're off. I sense none of this. The poem could actually stand alone quite competently. 

Think details. We have no name for our princible character (not that we need it), we know little about them. In other words, why should we care to hear about what is going to happen to them. The speech of the character set the mood well, but for the moment that is the only tool you have given us (other than the magic which hooks me faster than anything). We know they are a nurse and that the magic is involved with that aspect of their life. You see, we have a fair bit of "information", but not enough poetry and few reasons to care where this will go.

Now, here is a "trick" I use. It is not mine, but given to me by Michener. In your exposition, it is perfectly acceptable to use sort of a mini complication from the characters past. Briefly tell a circumstance from before the present story and describe how the character dealt with it then. This gives us an opportunity to see the nature of the character before actually starting our story. You have sort of done this already. Maybe expand a little.

Don't be discouraged. I don't consider myself a very good poet, but I know that I am an excellent storyteller. It took a long time to get there. This is an excellent start.


W. H. Snow

A poet is a nightingale, who sits in darkness and sings to cheer its own solitude with sweet sounds. Percy Bysshe Shelley

Learn how, teach others.
The NeoPoet Mentor Program

Í'm taking all this on board and more:).

I'm having trouble working out what exaltly an exposition is (as you can see :p)! I think I'm letting what I've learnt in uni from the prose class over take here instead of the letting the poetry over-take.

I definitely agree with everything you've said. I've written narrative poetry before and I'm struggling with how to do that in the first person because we have to develop a unique voice for the character (which has over-powered everything else). I'm gonna have a few days mulling over this and trying to make it more like poetry. Am I right in thinking that we sort of want to deal with dramatic poetry like Shakespeare did? Because he wrote all his plays in poetic verse from the first person of characters.

Also again in regards to exposition, I think I'm going to use Browing's "The Bishop Orders His Tomb at St. Prax's" as a guide. Is this the full exposition? Or should an exposition include more than this:

Vanity, saith the preacher, vanity!
Draw round my bed: is Anselm keeping back?
Nephews — sons mine . . . ah God, I know not! Well —
She, men would have to be your mother once,
Old Gandolf envied me, so fair she was!
What's done is done, and she is dead beside,
Dead long ago, and I am Bishop since,
And as she died so must we die ourselves,
And thence ye may perceive the world's a dream.
Life, how and what is it? As here I lie 10
In this state-chamber, dying by degrees,
Hours and long hours in the dead night, I ask
"Do I live, am I dead?" Peace, peace seems all.
Saint Praxed's ever was the church for peace;
And so, about this tomb of mine.

This is where I think the exposition ends, but I'm probably wrong.

Sorry for the massive text block just want to know because I'm unclear about to do one in poetry.

Ps. Sorry for any typos using different broswer without spell-checker

author comment

Great poem. The language use sets the mood, and I can almost paint a picture. It's a bit cynical, and a little crass, the way I get it. I don't think it read like a short story. The way I see it, the character's mind is being exposed by her (I assume) monologue. I'll agree with Chrys that there's more background here. I'm gathering, from Wesley's comment, that a good exposition will give us necessary background plus a little conflict to set the ball rolling; put the last-but-one straw on the camel's back, if I get it.

Probably you should be writing with a "setting the stage" mindset, but Wes'll tell if that's a good way to approach it.

I liked the poem. It was terrific, and I connected with it a little because I'm Catholic (yay, anyone?) but for the purposes of this workshop, a little more will help. Try answering the big "and so?" that can come after reading this poem.

"Old girl was a devote Catholic
all her life!..."

Should that be "a devout Catholic"?

No verse is free for the man who wants to do a good job. - TS Eliot

I've taken all that on board and will fix up the typos you pointed out in the next revision:)!

author comment

you should just set the stage in the first part. Name or point out your character[s] then their reaspon for being there, and so on through the four stages. I always have trouble finding a cut off point for each part. Sometimes I feel like I'm writing a Stephen King novel. Then I know I've gone too far and have to cut some lines or find a way to combine them.Lots of times you have really good lines that you don't want to throw out, so try to tell the story by combining lines or writing another verse to use them. But you have to know when to stop and start another thought. Remember this is a story we are telling in four parts. ~ Geezer

Our Chatroom is open 24/7 Feel free to use it for
keeping in touch We have poets around the world and it is fun
to have real-time conversations with those that are up
all night or on the other side of the world.

... also keep in mind that the parts will inevitably over lap some and that is not bad.

W. H. Snow

A poet is a nightingale, who sits in darkness and sings to cheer its own solitude with sweet sounds. Percy Bysshe Shelley

Learn how, teach others.
The NeoPoet Mentor Program

my version of your "magic" story poem

"old ones good at making lives for themselves
the New Orleans back swamps,
made mean fuckers
that never gave up!
Didnt need no needles
nor the flowers dead
to get em by in the world
just today

Thats why I dont guess about the trade
all Opputrunitiies and such
what them white folk and movies dont
dont know
Oppurtunity and trade
We dont go about slicing up
babies or eating their brains,
Holding crucifixes upside down,
chanting leveejian gibberish

Magic! It aint that t'all
and it never was about Death!"

horrible as my work on this is with errors
and all I strip my own works down
but I love your detailing
streamlining corners is hard to do
to want the whole subject to slingshot

I love the show Swamp People
and remember To Kill a Mockinbird
picking up accents is hard

I agree that the shady grey areas
aree as ghostly as spanish moss
at dusk when the mists rise
putting some sparkle
on this peice would add greatly
to its appeal which for me is
great already

enjoyed writing my version of
this crit stufff

Thank You

Part of the exposition is getting the reader in tune with,
or to cause an invested interest, and for me you've accomplished
that here ... I like your character. I did feel a bit more vernacular
voice would help with the poetry side of it, but either way, I'd like
to see where this ends up.

thanks for posting


where have you gone? wesley

W. H. Snow

A poet is a nightingale, who sits in darkness and sings to cheer its own solitude with sweet sounds. Percy Bysshe Shelley

Learn how, teach others.
The NeoPoet Mentor Program

(c) No copyright is claimed by Neopoet to original member content.