Dancing Girl (new ending)

This is a serious poetry forum not a "love-in". Post here for more detailed, constructive criticism.
Post Reply
User avatar
Perry
Preponderant Poster
Preponderant Poster
Posts: 781
Joined: Wed Jul 11, 2018 11:26 am

Dancing Girl (new ending)

Post by Perry » Mon Apr 22, 2019 8:35 pm

[I have inserted the new ending here, in this post.]

Her parents weren’t bad parents per se.
They were just indifferent, aloof —
responsible, busy, pressed for time.
The house was warm and had a roof.

But they were modern; they liked their fun.
Their adult friends came over often.
If the girl came down to see, they’d shoo
her back to her room. That was when

she was about five. One night she came down
to find them dancing, so she danced too.
She twisted her little body about;
she copied their sexy, adult moves —

and they squealed with delight! They let
her stay. For an hour they seemed to love her.
Starting then, she danced every day
and put rouge on her face like her mother.

But time passed and they became tired
of their little dancing flower — "No more!"
They sent her to her room. So she looked
for other people to dance for.

She danced at school, she danced for friends.
And for boyfriends too. Then, at eighteen,
she found a different kind of place,
with sofas and chairs — a familiar scene,

like her living room from years before,
with sexy adults standing close.
They even said they would pay her!
So that was the life she chose.

She never felt wrong for what she did,
except that awful day her parents came
and howled and screamed and disapproved
and made her feel ashamed.

Original ending:

She danced until she was forty-five,
‘til the chorus said she was old.
Now she goes to the bar to drink,
and she dances at home alone.

-end-

In the final stanza, I'm thinking of substituting "patrons" for "chorus" and "club" for "bar".

This is the second poem I’ve written recently that has someone confined to her room. As I have said before, I tend to write poems in pairs. I get an idea in my head, and it takes two poems to dislodge it.

I originally intended to kill off the girl at the hands of a bar patron, but that seemed cruel. As it is, the poem ends suddenly, perhaps too suddenly.
Last edited by Perry on Thu May 02, 2019 8:29 pm, edited 6 times in total.
If I don't critique your poem, it is probably because I don't understand it.

bjondon
Prolific Poster
Prolific Poster
Posts: 444
Joined: Wed May 10, 2017 5:04 pm

Re: Dancing Girl

Post by bjondon » Fri Apr 26, 2019 4:22 pm

Hi Perry, I'm having difficulty buying some of the
seeming assumptions behind this narrative.
The pairing of this poem with your excellent
Baryshnikov one is a bold and potentially successful
drawing of equivalence between the psychology and
aesthetic dynamics of a lap dancer/ stripper and a high
art ballet performer. They are both getting a form of
conditional love and acceptance from their audiences
and both (to their existential shock) being discarded
when they no longer come up to scratch.
But! … your narrative seems to attribute rsther simplistic
blame to the parents . . . I think this 'indifference' needs to
be grounded in some more telling details. It also seems to frame
the induction of women into prostitution/complicity with
misogeny as a sort of quaint fairytale which I don't think for one moment
is your intention. I wonder if a male stripper would work better here?
I think a man writing about the abuses of patriarchy in such a bold
and faux naive way is walking through a minefield . . . . so I admire
your courage . . . you may find a way through (have you read much Angela Carter?)
and perhaps others might be able to offer you more useful diagnostics.
Regards,
Jules

User avatar
Firebird
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 1882
Joined: Tue May 21, 2013 9:46 pm

Re: Dancing Girl

Post by Firebird » Fri Apr 26, 2019 8:39 pm

But! … your narrative seems to attribute rsther simplistic
blame to the parents . . . I think this 'indifference' needs to
be grounded in some more telling details. It also seems to frame
the induction of women into prostitution/complicity with
misogeny as a sort of quaint fairytale which I don't think for one moment
is your intention.
Hi Perry,

I think Jules has it spot on there.

Cheers,

Tristan

User avatar
Perry
Preponderant Poster
Preponderant Poster
Posts: 781
Joined: Wed Jul 11, 2018 11:26 am

Re: Dancing Girl

Post by Perry » Fri Apr 26, 2019 9:38 pm

bjondon wrote:
Fri Apr 26, 2019 4:22 pm
Hi Perry, I'm having difficulty buying some of the
seeming assumptions behind this narrative.
The pairing of this poem with your excellent
Baryshnikov one is a bold and potentially successful
drawing of equivalence between the psychology and
aesthetic dynamics of a lap dancer/ stripper and a high
art ballet performer. They are both getting a form of
conditional love and acceptance from their audiences
and both (to their existential shock) being discarded
when they no longer come up to scratch.
But! … your narrative seems to attribute rsther simplistic
blame to the parents . . . I think this 'indifference' needs to
be grounded in some more telling details. It also seems to frame
the induction of women into prostitution/complicity with
misogeny as a sort of quaint fairytale which I don't think for one moment
is your intention. I wonder if a male stripper would work better here?
I think a man writing about the abuses of patriarchy in such a bold
and faux naive way is walking through a minefield . . . . so I admire
your courage . . . you may find a way through (have you read much Angela Carter?)
and perhaps others might be able to offer you more useful diagnostics.
Regards,
Jules
Thank you for your comments, Jules. However, all I can do is to disagree with you. Aloof, neglectful parents can, and often do, set up a deep need for love and approval in their children, and that can manifest itself in a need for attention along with exhibitionism. Also, the poem says nothing about prostitution. It may be true that prostitution is sometimes practiced in men's clubs, but I'm sure that many dancers just dance. I don't see this poem as controversial in any way.

The poem was prompted by an experience I had 20-25 years ago. It was after dark, and I was walking down a street in Manhattan. A group of sophisticated-looking, fashionable adults with a little girl in tow was walking towards me. Suddenly, the little girl zoomed out in front of the adults and did a dance that was obscenely sexual and provocative -- very inappropriate for a girl that age. And the adults did just what I said in the poem, they "squealed with delight" (although there was also a "here we go again" quality to their reaction, as if the girl was doing this kind of thing often). It was immediately obvious to me what was going on. The girl felt unloved and neglected by the adults (at least one of whom must have been her parent), and she had developed this behavior to get their attention. Behavior like that, which is developed in the formative years, often lasts a lifetime.

However, I agree with you that it might be a stretch that the girl danced for 40+ years because of the one incident described in the poem, but even that is entirely possible. Children often have experiences in their formative years which are life-changing, and which set them in a new direction. And once a desperate child learns a certain kind of behavior which seems to work, they will stick with it. I suspect that you simply haven't witnessed anything like I did, and so you see it as implausible. I've seen other instances in which children learned to act out in a specific way in order to get attention. Lifetime patterns are established very young.

It took 3-1/2 days for someone to place the first comment on this poem, so it may be that no one else comments; but if they do, I'll be curious to see what they say. Eventually I'll get the opinions of some women poets.
If I don't critique your poem, it is probably because I don't understand it.

User avatar
Firebird
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 1882
Joined: Tue May 21, 2013 9:46 pm

Re: Dancing Girl

Post by Firebird » Mon Apr 29, 2019 9:33 am

However, I agree with you that it might be a stretch that the girl danced for 40+ years because of the one incident described in the poem, but even that is entirely possible. Children often have experiences in their formative years which are life-changing, and which set them in a new direction. And once a desperate child learns a certain kind of behavior which seems to work, they will stick with it. I suspect that you simply haven't witnessed anything like I did, and so you see it as implausible. I've seen other instances in which children learned to act out in a specific way in order to get attention. Lifetime patterns are established very young.
Hi Perry,

I have no problem with the motif of the poem. It’s just that at the moment the poem reads rather starkly - too much like bare bones. It needs more specifics/details about the child’s/adolescent’s development to make it more believable. It’s not that this situation couldn’t happen, it certainly could, it’s that at the moments the poem doesn’t sound believable enough because it is too much of a bare motif and not enough specific details to bring it to life. And I realise the irony in me saying a poem needs more details rather than less, but of course it can be the case.

You know I like many of your poems, so I’m not saying this to be awkward.

I hope this helps.

Cheers,

Tristan

JamesM
Prolific Poster
Prolific Poster
Posts: 381
Joined: Fri Dec 18, 2009 1:14 pm

Re: Dancing Girl

Post by JamesM » Mon Apr 29, 2019 10:52 am

Hello there,
this trots along quite nicely. The language is unadorned and clear. Unfortunately the moment the little girl starts dancing, your conclusion is telegraphed. It's a little like a fifth grader assignment: earnest, overly simplistic logic leading us predictably to that trite ending. The theme is uninterrogated and its slightly admonishing conclusion can be squarely plopped into the: his- mother- gave- him ice-cream- when- he- was- a- boy- and now -he- is- obese -camp.
Regards

User avatar
Perry
Preponderant Poster
Preponderant Poster
Posts: 781
Joined: Wed Jul 11, 2018 11:26 am

Re: Dancing Girl

Post by Perry » Mon Apr 29, 2019 6:05 pm

Thank you, Tristan and James. I'll have to think about what you said. I had thought I had provided plenty of motivating details in the poem. As for the ending, I agree it can be seen as trite. I may have to give it a different ending.

Actually, I am a little surprised at the critique I've gotten on this poem. Usually readers accept the storyline of a poem, and then just decide if they like the language. On a forum like this, however, members seem to expect a poem to conform to their experience of reality.
If I don't critique your poem, it is probably because I don't understand it.

Macavity
Perspicacious Poster
Perspicacious Poster
Posts: 5241
Joined: Tue May 10, 2005 10:29 am

Re: Dancing Girl

Post by Macavity » Tue Apr 30, 2019 4:02 am

Her parents weren’t bad parents per se.
They were just indifferent, aloof —
responsible, busy, pressed for time.
The house was warm and had a roof.

But they were modern; they liked their fun.
Their adult friends came over often.
If the girl came down to see, they’d shoo
her back to her room. That was when

she was about five. One night she came down
to find them dancing, so she danced too.
She twisted her little body about;
she copied their sexy, adult moves —

and they squealed with delight! They let
her stay. For an hour they seemed to love her.
Starting then, she danced every day
and put rouge on her face like her mother.

But time passed and they became tired
of their little dancing flower — "No more!"
They sent her to her room. After that,
she looked for others to dance for.
I like the delivery. It adds to the dark undertones. I think the consequences of the neglect and the parental self-indulgence does not need to be detailed. That kills the poem because of the reasons James mentioned. The repercussions of this childhood dependency, need for acceptance continued into adult life, can be left to the reader.

best

mac

User avatar
Perry
Preponderant Poster
Preponderant Poster
Posts: 781
Joined: Wed Jul 11, 2018 11:26 am

Re: Dancing Girl

Post by Perry » Tue Apr 30, 2019 5:02 am

Thank you, Mac.

This is a narrative poem. I don't really care if the trajectory of the poem becomes obvious part-way through the poem -- not every ending has to be a surprise.

Right now, however, I'm looking to replace the final stanza. I'm not in love with it, but I'm very fond of the stanzas right before it, so I would like to keep them. I'm a firm believer in nailing down the ending of a poem in a very concrete way, so I couldn't leave it the way you have it, with three stanzas lopped off.

I'm asking for the opinions of a couple formalist poets that I know. The problem is that I am over-extended when asking for favors.
If I don't critique your poem, it is probably because I don't understand it.

User avatar
Perry
Preponderant Poster
Preponderant Poster
Posts: 781
Joined: Wed Jul 11, 2018 11:26 am

Re: Dancing Girl

Post by Perry » Wed May 01, 2019 10:00 am

I'm working on a new ending. It doesn't satisfy every criticism, but this new final stanza is perhaps less trite. This would replace the final stanza that is there now:

She never felt wrong for what she did,
except that day her parents came,
and criticized and disapproved,
and made her feel ashamed.

This will give you an idea of where I'm headed. More irony is needed, but I'm still working on it.
If I don't critique your poem, it is probably because I don't understand it.

Macavity
Perspicacious Poster
Perspicacious Poster
Posts: 5241
Joined: Tue May 10, 2005 10:29 am

Re: Dancing Girl (new ending)

Post by Macavity » Wed May 01, 2019 11:55 am

I don't really care if the trajectory of the poem becomes obvious part-way through the poem -- not every ending has to be a surprise.
Yes, on reflection, it wasn't so much the predictable element, more the pedestrian outcomes compared to the peculiar childhood (the dark fairy-tale mode).

hope that helps some

mac

User avatar
Perry
Preponderant Poster
Preponderant Poster
Posts: 781
Joined: Wed Jul 11, 2018 11:26 am

Re: Dancing Girl (new ending)

Post by Perry » Wed May 01, 2019 6:46 pm

Thank you, Mac.

Maybe I should just have her murdered by a bar patron at the end -- that was my original thought. But that seems too obvious and gratuitous.

The new ending I posted sounds kind of sing-song, but I can find better language. I just need a way to finish the poem that isn't trite. I'm also thinking of having her forgive her parents or give her some other insight at the end.
If I don't critique your poem, it is probably because I don't understand it.

ray miller
Perspicacious Poster
Perspicacious Poster
Posts: 6261
Joined: Wed Apr 23, 2008 10:23 am

Re: Dancing Girl (new ending)

Post by ray miller » Thu May 02, 2019 3:39 pm

I think the storyline is plausible enough. Line 4 ought to be line 2, in my opinion, its current placement sits awkwardly, looks too rhyme-led.
with sexy adults standing close. - I think "older/ageing adults" would be more effective and probably truer.
Patrons is better than chorus and it needs be "said she was too old", but as you acknowledge, the ending is weak, especially the last 2 lines.
I'm out of faith and in my cups
I contemplate such bitter stuff.

User avatar
Perry
Preponderant Poster
Preponderant Poster
Posts: 781
Joined: Wed Jul 11, 2018 11:26 am

Re: Dancing Girl (new ending)

Post by Perry » Thu May 02, 2019 7:27 pm

ray miller wrote:
Thu May 02, 2019 3:39 pm
I think the storyline is plausible enough. Line 4 ought to be line 2, in my opinion, its current placement sits awkwardly, looks too rhyme-led.
with sexy adults standing close. - I think "older/ageing adults" would be more effective and probably truer.
Patrons is better than chorus and it needs be "said she was too old", but as you acknowledge, the ending is weak, especially the last 2 lines.
Thank you, Ray. That the overall story line seems plausible to you makes me feel good -- you are the only one who seems to get it.

I'm surprised that you want me to switch the order of the lines in the first stanza. The order that they are in now is very poetic, with the roof line being a delayed thought. The first stanza is one of my favorites.

I have already decided to scrap the final stanza but haven't come up with a good replacement.

Thanks again.

(I have changed the ending in the first post.)
If I don't critique your poem, it is probably because I don't understand it.

Post Reply