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The paper round

by itcametomeinadream 

Posted: 18 September 2017
Word Count: 182
Summary: This is a departure from what I am used to writing - both in style and content. Honest comment appreciated.

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Content Warning
This piece and/or subsequent comments may contain strong language.

A promise of freedom
Something of my own
But there were hundreds of them.

It got worse:
"You have to put the leaflets inside, OK?"
The first time my mum helped me.

They gave me a bag - too small
But I could still hardly lift it
I would have to come back.

My own road was easy
But the letterboxes never end
I don't even know the name of this street.

Then: growl - snatch - thud against the doorframe
I check. My fingers are still there.

Next: a love letter: "no free papers"
All they had to do was ask.

You could smell the bad ones
An amputated car
Beware of the dog
No salesmen
Net curtains with brown edges.

The door swung and spat through yellowed teeth:
"We don't want your fucking paper, alright?"
Too many houses
I'd never remember.

And then back to the familiar
"Got a job, have you, you ugly prick?"
I laugh to show how tough I am.

Eventually: a plastic bag
"No mixed coin"
Would it be enough?
I had my doubts.

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Comments by other Members

James Graham at 21:02 on 18 September 2017  Report this post
Welcome to the group. I should say, Welcome back - I think you first joined WW in 2004. I'll post a comment within the next couple of days.


James Graham at 20:39 on 20 September 2017  Report this post
I’ve enjoyed this humorous poem, though I think there’s room for improvement. You say it’s a new departure for you, in style and content. It’s a humorous free verse poem about personal experiences, fairly common experiences – the trials of a first job – so the subject matter is quite light. It’s not a poem of the most serious kind, say about war or loss or deep psychology. That’s not a criticism – there’s plenty of room for lighter verse.

 If you haven’t written anything like this before, and perhaps would like to write more in a similar vein, I can use examples from this poem to show how this kind of subject can be treated successfully in verse. In fact, I think I can do quite a lot with just your first three lines.

In prose, this story would start something like: ‘When I got my job doing a paper round, I was looking forward to a bit more freedom and independence, and an income of my own. But on my first day I was rather discouraged, to say the least, by the sheer number and weight of the papers’. Well, that would be OK, but what you do when you set out to make a poem is sift out the nuggets. Just the essentials. And instead of running them on in a sentence, you set them out in separate short lines of verse – each idea on display as it were, drawing attention to itself. When we read verse, we pause momentarily on each line, whereas in prose we might read on more quickly. That’s one of the most basic attributes of verse writing.

You first three lines then :
Paper Round

A promise of freedom
Something of my own
But there were hundreds of them.

(We need to include the title.) These little nuggets tell us, in a kind of shorthand way, all we need to know. A young man looking for a bit of independence, some money of his own to spend or save – and then he’s brought down to earth by the nitty-gritty of the first day at work. Pausing on each line, the poetry reader – who expects a lot to be said in a few words – sees it all.

In verse, you can also juxtapose. This means you can place a line right next to another line and create a surprise, or a contrast, or a humorous twist. Your third line here does that. Ah, dreams of freedom, something of my own…then good grief! Look at what I have to do to get that! The juxtaposition of the third line creates a twist, much more effectively than you could in prose.

I’m not saying your first three lines are sublime poetry, but they’re not bad – and they do show how poetry works.

Now, I’ll follow this up in the next few days (I’m going to be travelling, so won’t get internet access for a couple of days). I will look in more detail at the rest of the poem and suggest changes you could make. Just a quote to end with:
Then: a growl and a snatch and a thud against the doorframe
I check. My fingers are all still there.

Good. Concise, not a word wasted. (Except maybe you could leave out ‘all’.) And it captures a not funny, but funny, moment, vividly.

More to follow.


V`yonne at 13:00 on 21 September 2017  Report this post
I like this poem. It's got attitude and it clearly stems from experience.
I think that the passage James quoted could be punched up a bit though. Short is aggressive and you could do this to make it more threatening

A growl
a snatch
a thud against the doorframe

I check my fingers 
all still there.

The part that stirkes me as most perfect is minimalist but so recognisable of the 'type'

           you could sense the bad ones
An amputated car
Beware of the dog
No salesman
Net curtains with brown edges.

is that supposed to be 'no salesmen' btw?

I am thinking of getting a 'no cold callers' sign myself to go with my brown edged nets devil

James Graham at 16:34 on 22 September 2017  Report this post
Oonah’s idea (above) for shorter, more punchy lines is very good. Here are a few more suggestions for giving the poem a little more impact.
The third stanza, ‘They gave me a bag…’, has only 22 words – but too many. Here’s an example of how you could reduce this to its essentials.
The bag was too small
And too heavy.
What this does is create a little paradox, something to think about. The reader would pause here (for a moment) thinking, ‘If it was small it would be light…but no, surprisingly, it was small and heavy’. The general idea here is to say it all in as few words as possible, and even better, to say it in a way that makes your reader pause and smile, or think, or react in some way.
But the fences stretch on
There must be a punchier way of saying this. A huge exaggeration, perhaps, something  to do with infinity, as far as the eye can see, from here to London/ to the North Pole. It would certainly express how you felt on your first day.
You can leave out ‘It felt like…’:
You could sense the bad ones
And ‘There were…’:
Too many houses
I'd never remember.
Really there aren’t many faults to pick. I like this poem. It does give an impression of being from real experience, and there’s a keen edge to its humour, even quite a delicious sarcasm in
a love letter: "no free papers"
All they had to do was ask.
Good work.

itcametomeinadream at 23:37 on 22 September 2017  Report this post
Thank you both for the feedback - and encouragement. I think this is the first poem I've written in a direct and obvious way about an experience. I have enjoyed the exercise so it's good to know I am not wide of the mark.

I also take on board the comments about unnecessary words, something I strongly want to avoid, but isn't always obvious shortly after you've written something.

"No salesman" was, if I remember correctly (and I have doubts that I do), as it was. But I can see that it makes the reader stumble, so I have corrected it. I've also made edits to reflect the suggestions above - some directly, others less so.

>> a little paradox, something to think about

I like this, but I'm conscious that I want my readers to "stumble" in the right places. If anything, I'm probably over-fond of trying to make people think at the expense of clarity, and perhaps this poem is an attempt at the opposite - at least in places. 

I thank you both again for your comments, which are greatly appreciated, and have been helpful.

James Graham at 12:08 on 24 September 2017  Report this post

Thank you for your very specific reply to comments. I take your point about ‘trying to make people think at the expense of clarity’. This can be hard to judge, as (obviously) what’s clear to you may not be clear to others. As to spotting unnecessary words, I don’t know if other poets do this but I find it helps to set a poem aside for a few days, then review it. It can be surprising how many unnecessary words and other faults one notices at that stage.

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