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Tuesday, 30 June 2009

The Girl Who Ate Wood

Her ruler
most days
eaten half away.

Plague on all they centimeters!
Dooz me 'ead in
straight they do
always gawpin' up at I,
givin' I the evil eye.
Some days I darezn't even lift I desk lid up!
Where'm all us English inches gawn?
All bin eaten, az 'em?

Health, psychology
and medical agreed:
a dietary deficiency.

at times by fear:

They gangle down
them do
they hair roots
strangle all us brains -

they's why we stupid, see?

The family affliction.

Only she
and not the doctors
knew the cure:

chow down wood -
lots of it -
every day.

This is not the first poem I have written about this particular young lady. I did in fact briefly post one that I subsequently found unsatisfactory. This is not just a new version, however, it is a totally new poem. A different poem. For that reason, I would be particularly grateful to any good soul who felt able to offer a critique.


Jeanne Estridge said...

I don't feel qualified to offer a critique. All I can offer is:
1) I like it. Her odd-ball personality shines through every line. She is sympathetic.
2) I'm wondering about the phrase "Health, psychology and medical...." Is that an English (as opposed to American) usage? Because the first two appear to be nouns and the last an adjective, which I found a little disconcerting.

Rosaria Williams said...

The regional dialect/phrases are quite charming and endearing.

I like the way it sounds, the way it evolves.

Kat Mortensen said...

This is totally (coll.) unexpected! It's my sort of thing, for sure.

I've been watching "Secret Millionaire" and this girl could have stepped off of any of those depressed streets they keep showing.

In a bizarre sort of way, I'm reminded of Eliza Doolittle with her "gawn".

I really enjoyed this departure.

Was that a critique? Hmm.


EfigĂȘnia Coutinho ( Mallemont ) said...

Dave King,
my compliments to its beautiful poetical style,
with admiration,
EfigĂȘnia Coutinho

Rachel Fox said...

I like the whole ruler section..the idea of eating centimetres. I like the simplicity of the whole poem too. For me a lot of poetry is over-written these days. Not this one.

Madame DeFarge said...

I enjoyed this, and yes, did remind me of Eliza Doolittle too.

readingsully2 said...

Pretty good cockney accent. :)

I'm kind of agreeing with Jeanne on the parts of speech.

I enjoyed this poem tremendously. I also like the ruler and centimeter line. :)

Karen said...

I like the eating of wood and the dialect. Someone who cannot assimilate, "Health, psychology and medical" have to draw conclusions about HER deficiencies, not their own. Interesting, Dave, and I'd love to read more about her.

readingsully2 said...

Dave, I was wondering if the line, Health, psychology and medical was her voice or the poet's...'cause I was thinking those lines were the poet's not the girl's voice. If it is the girl's voice, I would change what I said. Can you tell me which you intended?

Ronda Laveen said...

I liked it. I had to read a second time and then I had to smile. I don't know enough about writing or critical reading of poetry, but I loved the commentary on the medical community. Health, psychology and medical all agree but they really don't know a thing.

A Cuban In London said...

Here's my contribution. I loved the fact that you provided the girl's inner voice and at the same time the outside world as it sees her. It is a remarkable poem because it is short and therefore must get its intro, development and denoument in quickly. You pulled it off in my humble opinion. I have just gone through it again and found this stanza particularly beautiful:

'They gangle down
them do
they hair roots
strangle all us brains -

they's why we stupid, see?
The family affliction.'

Many thanks.

Greetings from London.

Dave King said...

Many thanks for that. There are some useful commenst there. The Health, psychology and medical did make me stop and wonder when I wrote it, but theyare the three local agencies who were involved with this lassie and that is how they termed themdelves, so I let it ride.

Thanks for that, though I am not sure how much it was local dialect and how much a kind of sub-culture - or, come to that, exactly what the difference is!

I haven't watched Secret Million aire, but I can well see the Eliza Doolittle connection.

That was a critique, yes, thank you.

Welcome to my blog and very many thanks for the kind comment.

Thank you very much. One idea behind it was to try to keep the lines taut.

Madame DeFarge
Thanks. It hadn't occurred to me before readin the comments.

Thanks very much. She did come from the London area, yes, though when I knew her she was living in South London and I think had moved around quite a bit..

I do have more to tell. In fact the first poem was overblown because I tried to put too much into it, too many aspects. I decided to try to retrict each poem to one aspect.

You were correct. They are the poet's voice. Her voice is in italics throughout.

That was certainly true in this instance. Thanks.

Dave King said...

A Cuban in London
Many thanks for that. Another very useful comment.

Rachel Green said...

I really like it. This lady is a treasure-trove of plot twists and poetic asides.

Jim Murdoch said...

I have no criticism of content. As all the previous comments have said, it is excellent. The voice especially. Now a couple of nitpicks:

    But times
    half-paralysed by fear,

I would have expected a comma after 'times' and personally I would make the first line 'But at times'. It changes the rhythm and works better with 'half-paralysed'. Try it.

    Only she
    and not the doctors knew
    the cure:

Here I would make the last line 'knew the cure' because the emphasis on 'knew' feels off as the last syllable of the previous line. Personally I would have added in dashes:

    Only she -
    and not the doctors -
    knew the cure:

but I suppose on can over punctuate. The same could be said for the last stanza:

    chow down wood -
    lots of it -
    every day.

My one question about the content is why 'fear'? It seems an odd emotion to go with this girl's actions. I'm sure it's right but I'm interested.

Best thing you've done in a while, Dave. Short and punchy. Just the way I like 'em.

Carl said...

Wonderfully quirky

Unknown said...

From a teacher's perspective, the little ones eat anything and everything! My students suck on their clothing quite a bit when they are thinking, but they devour paste, pencils, paper and rulers that are made of wood. The plastic rulers are more difficult to digest. I do my best to discourage these habits. I worry about splinters. Gnawing does help some people think better and gum chewing is not aloud. I loved the poem because it is so real.

readingsully2 said...

REF. to your post at my blog.

Dave, I have not written serious poetry since 1999. My husband jokes that it is because since I married him....I'm happy so I have nothing to draw from. LOL

I would love to get back to it, actually. You have inspired me again.

Thanks, so much, Dave.

Unknown said...

Hi Dave,

I agree with A Cuban on his favourite stanza. It is the one that speaks most realistically to me.

I also immediately "heard" the London East End accent with the word "gawn" but that seems at odds with the "I" and the "z" usage.

Conda Douglas said...

Great fun, Dave. I too loved the voice of the girl. The only question I have is: isn't this a disease, eating non-food? Didn't somebody die from eating a bicycle? Is it a form of pica (sp)?

Friko said...

Not quite sure, Dave. I like the idea very much, the juxtaposition of feisty (certainly not dumb) street kid (London? maybe not, actually, certainly not) and officialdom. That works fine.
Chewing and gnawing the ruler, well observed. But "plague on" ? No street kid knows that word.

Sorry, if I've been too serious about the poem.

(WHERE is that kid from? I've just read the poem for third time, just can't work it out.)

Blue Sky Dreaming said...

I've read all the comments and find I have little to add except I enjoyed it completely, the style, the imagery and content...works for me! I'd sure like to read more.

Dave King said...

She would have been well surprised to hear you sat so, but thanks on her behalf.

Many thanks for the critique. Just what was required.
The comma after But times, I have no reservations about beyond the fact that I first wrote the piece without punctuation, then decided it needed some and that I would put it in as sparsely as possible. I am still unsure whether to revert to none or if I have put in too much. Given that it is punctuated, however, I agree with your point.

But times was originally Sometimes. I'm inclining towards:

by fear,

I think your point is well made concerning

Only she -
and not the doctors -
knew the cure:

I also like the use of dashes in the last stanza.

As to the fear issue, she had a real fear - terror would not be too strong - of the family disease, as she called it.

Thanks again. Very useful.

Thanks - a quirky lady.

Thanks for that. Yes, I do know the digestive abilities of little ones. This lassie's, though, was on an altogether different scale - and from a different motivation. She gnawed the edge of her desk lid, which was oak, and eat all manner of wooden and woody things (conkers, acorns, clothes pegs - just the wooden parts! - and much else) very noisily and whenever she could.

Glad to have done so - as long as you are not saying that I've made you miserable!

I agree with you on the accent. It was a mixture and by no means consistent. As I said above, I think more a sub-culture than a true accent.

I know there was an old lady who dies from eating a horse... I think! Don't thnik I know about the bicycle, though. It never struck me as being a disease as such. Maybe an example of how irrational fears need irrational beliefs to overcome them.

I understand your comment, but in fact plague on! was a favourite expression of hers. She used it in all manner of circumstances. She had lived in London for a while when I knew her, but I've no idea where she came from originally. Asked, she would just say the country. That si actually an aspect that is waiting for another poem!

Blue Sky Dreaming
Thank you very much. Will see what I can do!

paperbatty said...

I've just found your blog, and I must comment on this poem. It has a delicious combination of perspectives, and the rhythm is absolutely perfect. As soon as I finish reading it, I want to start over again.

Helen Ginger said...

I like this. Unusual. Fun. Interesting. Left me wondering if she'll pull out her hair next to stop the roots from taking over her brain.

Straight From Hel

Stephen Dell'Aria said...

What an unusual poem and very interesting. I am rereading it over and over. I think for me the lines,
Dooz me 'ead in
straight they do
always gawpin' up at I,
givin' I the evil eye.

really draws me in. What a bazaar and seemingly dysfunctional woman.

Mary Paquet said...

David, I like the juxtaposition of the voices -- the authorities and the afflicted person. Wow. Pretty powerful stuff.

Dick said...

Many have critiqued; I'll just approve. Loved it!

gleaner said...

Dave I can't add anything more to the above -

BTW, I have tried to access your blog over the last few days and it opened the page but then an "operation aborted" message would come up, this has happened on a few blogs I read ?? so only today have I been able to read your post. Some-one mentioned it was a problem with using internet explorer rather than other ones and something to do with the "followers" tag. Anyhow, maybe blogger has fixed the glich.

Anonymous said...

What more can I say? I agree to all the wonderful comments above! The poem is great, Sir.^^

Dave King said...

Welcome to my blog and many thanks for stopping by to comment. Thank you also for the generosity of your remaks. Much appreciated.

Do you know, that thought never once occurred to me? Nor her, I imagine, for I would not have put it past her. Thanks for an interesting thought.

You are absolutely correct in your assessment. In fact, the family was a dysfunctional one, but as has already been picked up, I found her to be a remarkably sympathetic person. I would find it difficult to detail why, though. Thanks for the response.

Many thanks for that. Very useful.

Much appreciated. Approval is always welcome!

I am sorry indeed to hear of the difficulties getting on to the blog. It is news to me. I haven't come across this until now. I shall try to do a spot of investigating. In the meantime, if you do come upon any info', especially concerning stuff I might be able to do to ease the problem, please let me know. (davidalexking@googlemail.com)

Welcome to the blog. Good to have you and much thanks for the comment.

Louise | Italy said...

Fantastic - such an original voice. I can almost see her.

Louise | Italy said...

PS I'm getting the operation aborted problem on my site and my machine, as are several other readers -- I'm off to Blogger helpdesk to see what they're up to!

Unknown said...

I love it! Especially;

They gangle down
them do
they hair roots
strangle all us brains

That creates such a powerful emotional image!

Rose Marie Raccioppi said...

Poignant be your descriptive. All that judges, labels, assesses with less than full knowledge be known here. And YES, "Only she
and not the doctors knew
the cure:" - this exceedingly relevant to all I have experienced, personally and professionally. Your presentation has indeed communicated a TRUTH, what is listened to and not heard, what is viewed but not seen.

Dave King said...

Many thanks for the kind response.

This operation aborted is becoming a nuisance. I didn't get any help when I tried. Let me know if you get more luck. Sorry you're having the nuisance.

Thanks for the generous comment. Always useful to know these things (good or bad).

Rose Marie
Thanks for that. You have obviously experienced folk like her?

Mariana Soffer said...

Dave, thank you very much for visiting my blog, I am thrilled with yours so far, I like it a lot.
Here is what I think about this post:

The cure for a disease
any human being has
is more likely to be discovered
by the sufferer itself
than by his medical doctor
that can never become the real patient
in order to search inside, sit still
and watch straight

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