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Because there is a profound difference between writing something to be read and writing something worth reading; and in that difference might beauty be found.

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

"When the Men Go Off to War" by Victoria Kelly -- Verse Daily, 3/26/13

from Southwest Review
poem found here

First lines:
What happens when they leave
is that the houses fold up like paper dolls,


the first line of the poem

— reformatted, with minor edits 4/23/14

Why that first line, I ask? It is the exact same idea as the title, though stated in an utterly banal fashion. It takes to the ninth word of the poem for there to be a word of any substance whatsoever. After reading that first line, I had totally lost interest in reading the rest of the poem, because that first line pretty much told me what was to follow.

And I was right.

Could it not have started with this opening line:

Houses fold up like paper dolls

instead? I mean, it's somewhat a trite idea that has been said a hundred times before, but it's still monstrously better than the current first line.


If there is emotion in my brief little critique here, it is not really directed at Ms. Kelly so much as at the editors of the Southwest Review. My only concerns for Ms. Kelly would be, should be, and hopefully are only two in number.

  1. Is this poem a greater accomplishment than the poems you were writing, say, a year ago? If it is, yay for you; if it isn't, boo on you.
  2. Will the poems you write, say, next year be a greater accomplishment than this poem? If they are, yay for you; if they aren't, boo for you.

Those two concerns should be the concern for every poet, and are the concern of every poet of merit.

But as for those editors — This is what you chose to print? The first stanza is out of control, not to mention rather unimaginative. Are you such poor editors that you cannot see that? Come on, people. I am sure there was something better in the offering.

(At least, I hope there was.)

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