They Watch UsThey Watch Us:
In terms of vision and impact, you can't ask for a whole lot more. The imagery is chilling and beautiful at the same time, and it's delivered strongly and succinctly.
I gave you four stars on originality, because while I feel the themes and actors you've used are common in poetry, you've used them well. You've created something that manages to be simultaneously unique, and yet feel almost old, as if it belongs in a book of old spooky poems next to The Raven.
In terms of technique I felt there were only a few hiccups, and they were minor.
In the second stanza, I think "no one" would flow better than "nobody"
In the third stanza, I find myself wondering why the weeping maiden's heart is "soon to break" when it seems as if it is or should be already broken, or at least in the process of breaking. Something like, "I watch as her heart breaks," perhaps?
The fourth stanza you switch tenses briefly to future tense to talk about "The crows will flutter downward," and then back to present when "They take the maiden away." This could be fixed easily by just dropping the word will, for "The crows flutter downward."
Also in the fourth stanza, you refer to a noose amongst the hands of the crows, but crows don't have hands. You could preserve the rhyme by having them place the noose into her hands instead.
The final stanza I think is flawless and the strongest part of the poem. It's a very powerful finish, and it's absolutely chilling.
Overall, my critiques are minor ones, and I think this is cool, chilling, powerful, and darkly fun.
About the first part, this poem is technically from a book ^^. Although it's a book I haven't written yet.
The actual scene this was taken from was during the planning stage of 'The Legend of Chenbeard'. In the scene, Chenbeard the Pirate and his crew find themselves in a small nearly deserted village close to the mountains of the Sumi'tar. Here, there are a few humans living in seclusion away from the rest of the world. They are hermits essentially and though they live somewhat close to each other, they are nothing like neighbours. Chenbeard visits one man in particular, an elder by the name of Yaigon (subject to change) and finds the man to be suffering from terrible mental illness. He believes the Sumi'tar to be crows and speaks of children buried beneath a frozen lake. The lake itself turns out to be an entrance into an underground cavern where the 'frozen children' are mutated mandragora that attack Chenbeard and his pirate crew.
After discovering that these creatures are the cause of the near, extinction of humans within this particular region. Chenbeard attempts to destroy the Mandra-Patriach from which all these monsters sprout. However he is stopped by Azael of the Sumi'tar who informs him that this was originally their natural resting place and demonstrates that they are a part of the eco-system in the area. The humans were the invaders who encroached upon this land, originally as miners, seeking a rare ore that is used to forge the unique Spiritech armors that all races crave. The Sumi'tar did not interfere at the time however, for they believed that nature would take care of itself and in this case, it did.
As for the suggestions, I think they're fantastic and I considered them myself, but I won't be adopting all and of course I'll explain why:
The reason I chose 'nobody' instead of 'no one' is because no one is naturally spoken slower than nobody and it actually disrupts the flow of the poem to substitute no one in place of nobody (you cannot replace a lag with a longer lag). It was a tough sentence to dissect though and even I had trouble with it.
And with the third, the reason for her heart being 'soon to break' is to be interpreted in the context of her having committed a crime. i.e. perhaps the mother killed her children? In the maddened mine of the poem's author (in the story), he sees the children as part of a delirious dream. Hence, the poem seems to suggest that the children belonged to maiden and she was somehow responsible for their fate. If we use that line of thought then the immediacy of the action, suggests that her heart is not broken yet because it is not something she committed long ago. Rather, it's something happening now and therefore her heart is 'soon' to break as opposed to being already broken.
I will take the suggestion for the fourth stanza. It does sound better without will ^^ and that was an excellent pick-up. So I thank you for helping to refine my flow. Often, there will be minor bumps in flow but that is part of the reason why I submit these works here because it's all part of my practice and learning experience ^^
Thank you for taking the time to enjoy my work. I sincerely appreciate it :3
-Captain Chenbeard of the Black Fedora Pirates
Interesting, I'd like to ask you a bit more about some of the choices here. I'm not trying to push my opinions on you, I'd just like to explore the mind of a fellow writer.
About "no one" vs "nobody" I think the speed with which "nobody" is spoken, with the final two syllables sort of rushing out is what breaks the rhythm for me. When I read it, I feel like I have to speed up the rhythm briefly to get "nobody" out.
Perhaps it also has to do with the line before that one ("But the things they seem to tell me") being tied for the longest line in the poem at 8 syllables. By comparison the other 8 syllable line is followed by a 6 syllable line.
Your average set is 13 syllables, with a couple 12s and 14s. This particular set is your longest, with 15. "No one" would bring it down to 14, closer to the average. Maybe that's what I was picking up on.
I'm honestly not sure. It was an instinctual pick, and all that analysis above was done after your response in an effort to find what it was that bothered me. Perhaps it just boils down to a stylistic choice.
Moving on to the "soon to break" thing, I understand your point. It makes sense, but I still think I'd prefer to be shown her heart breaking in the present than to be told about it breaking in the future. Still, your explanation has cleared up your thinking on that, and it makes more sense to me now.
Where "soon to break" was my biggest hang up before, I find my biggest hang up, now that you've explained that, to be "A noose amongst their hands." I know it's poetic imagery, but I'm having a hard time getting past the image of crows with hands *grin*.
Anyway, I hope you don't mind me using your poem to explore my understanding of the craft and why I had the instinctual hang ups that I did. I'm glad you found some of my advice interesting or useful and I hope you find this reply similarly so.
While I've been a bit long winded about my hang ups with this poem, I want to make sure it's clear that these are certainly minor things that don't take away from the overall greatness of the work. I really do like it quite a bit.
You're a very creative person and it's clear you are very passionate about your world, story, and craft. I personally find it inspiring to see. I'm personally still hunting the story I want to tell that I can be that passionate and creative with.
With respect to the 'nobody' part, yes you are supposed to feel as though you have to speed up. That is the intention of its use to keep the meter constant xD. If we use no one which has a longer lag, it leaves you feeling as though you've gone a little too far after the last word is spoken. However, you're not wrong, whenever a longer line is used, the line following must be much shorter to compensate however in that particular circumstance, both were stretched therefore giving that speed-up feel to keep in time with the rhythm. In essence, it sucks the air out because you feel you have to move faster to keep pace, which I found to be interesting :3
Also with the syllable count. I never count syllables in my poetry. Remember, I don't have an art background. Therefore when I write, I go by ear essentially. The reason for this is that it helps me pay more attention to the mood and the emotions that I am setting. Hence when I did that line, I was thinking, 'is he feeling hopeless? What does the character want his words to say.' The discomfort of the end of the stanza and how it 'doesn't sit quite right' also conveys a sense of discomfort to the reader, properly setting the scene. That said, I also return to my earlier point that although no one would bring down the syllable count, read-out, it has a longer lag time because when someone who isn't an avid reader sees two words, they don't identify the combination pair and therefore it creates a lag when they speak/read aloud.
As for crows with hands :3 Weeeell I talk about toasters with faces :3 Think surreal. In fact, I want to do some surrealist poems over the coming summer beak so that will probably challenge your mind even more as I have always been inspired by the most disturbing artworks and I hope that one day my poetry can do the same thing. Crows with hands are intended to be either funny or disturbing depending on how you think about it. It's essentially a Rorschach test that can tell you a lot about the personality of the reader.
Someone who sees a frightening image when they think of crows with hands, is someone who is an avid horror fan. They enjoy scaring themselves so they'd think of something frightening.
Someone who sees it as funny, probably is someone who works with the rules of their craft and though creative, probably isn't creative in a dark/surreal way, since they are seeing it as something funny or absurd. For those who prefer a surreal style...dogs with human faces, tearing flesh, crows with hands to pick the food from the floor...these are all valid things, much like a gum-chewing door :3
The point is that everyone has their own style as you said, and I find it most interesting how different readers interpret the same imagery. It is very telling, not of the artist who wrote it, but of the one who is reading ^^
Anyway, I want to finish off by saying. Critiques and discussions are ALWAYS welcome at Word of Chen, EXCEPT to those who are close-minded. Several artists on DA, might have painted the image of me as someone childish who simply doesn't accept critiques with negative comments or ones that challenge my work. However the truth is, I see no point in accepting something that is done without the intent to learn.
The critic often feels they are superior, and therefore in that respect I take what I need and pay no mind to them. However, when someone comes with the intent to learn, to understand and to explore the magical device we call our minds.
Ah, now THAT is when the real fun begins no? ^^
-Captain Chenbeard of the Black Fedora Pirates
As I thought, your elaborations were very interesting. Thank you for indulging me.
It's an very interesting looking back at the "nobody" stanza colored by your commentary on your intentions. It's a stylistic choice that I'd not have made, but that's what's so fun about looking at what other writers choose to do.
It's these sorts of things that make art and artist's own, and it's so interesting how much can hinge upon a single word choice.
About the longer lag on "no one," that's so interesting. I'm a reader/writer to my core, it's always been my passion, so I never thought about how it might be read differently by someone who's not an avid reader.
I read so much that when I read (and write) I hear it in my head in speech patterns. I guess I never considered that might not always be the case. To me, when I speak "no one" I speak it as one word, so I read it the same way. But I suppose someone reading off a page might verbalize the space.
As for counting syllables, I never do it while I draft, but when I refine, I often use it to find what's bothering me. I often try to tighten up my poetry to follow a certain rhythm all the way through. I haven't really engaged my inner artist on poetry for a long time, since I prefer prose. Any recent poetry I've done has been pure fun and games. Perhaps I should challenge myself to writing a poem and playing more with the rhythm.
The crow hands thing is funny to me, so I guess I fall into that category. It actually stuck out to me because it made me giggle in a poem that's otherwise pretty dark.
Since it stuck out as the only bit quite that surreal in the poem, I wasn't sure it was intentional. I know I've read something by you before because I recognize your name, but I wasn't aware enough of your past work to know if this was the typical type of imagery you used. I'm watching your work now, though, and I look forward to reading more.
As for critics who feel superior to the artist, I think people for some reason tend to switch modes. Everyone has a set of perspectives when it comes to art. They have the artist, the fan, and the critic. I'm of the opinion we should strive to be all three, always.
When critiquing, I feel people often forget what things are like from the other perspectives. They forget that as an artist you want creative freedom and as a fan you forgive imperfections. They don't bring their artists' desire to learn or their fans' bubbling love of art to the critiquing process, and those are important bits that color any discussion of art.
I think it might come from a lot of people's limited experience with critique. When you grow up receiving critiques from parents, teachers, and other authority figures, I think it's easy to get the idea that a critique is a handing down of knowledge. But in a society of peers, the critical process should be one of open discourse and learning on both sides.
I always find it inspiring to talk to someone who is passionate about their work, and this is no exception. Now if only I could take a break from all the great books, tv shows, and video games I'm engrossed in long enough to do some creating of my own.
Well seeing as I come from a commerce background, I'm always researching market trends and other things. I essentially try and pinpoint consumer tastes more than anything hence why I don't write based on my own personal sense of things but rather on what the general public might find to be more acceptable.
And as someone who writes more poetry than prose, rhythm is very important xD even in prose it can be used to set the pace of each line and it helps you make the story more vibrant and vivid ^^ That is why cross-discipline knowledge can be very important :3
-Captain Chenbeard of the Black Fedora Pirates