Genetics

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ray miller
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Genetics

Post by ray miller » Wed Feb 05, 2020 9:44 am

I always imagined that coming of age
she’d want to know more about her birth parents
and we’d end up unearthing the newspaper cutting
that lies at the bottom of a box in our bedroom
that tells how her father came armed with a pistol
to the Social Services Reception window
threatening to murder the member of staff
who was stealing away his baby daughter.
How his low IQ and impaired vision
persuaded the magistrates to take pity
and not impose a custodial sentence.

But she shows no interest in her origins,
perhaps a token of how well loved and happy she is.
Elder sisters sometimes take the piss
because she’s so straight, so concrete in her thinking,
because, legend has it, she never sobs.
I’d like to tell her how well she’s done
considering where she started from
but I don’t want to start her off.
I'm out of faith and in my cups
I contemplate such bitter stuff.

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Firebird
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Re: Genetics

Post by Firebird » Wed Feb 05, 2020 6:08 pm

Hi Ray,

I understand N’s conflict and worry in the final three lines, but the final line comes across as a little mean. I’m not really sure it works fully for me. I know it’s an irrational fear of N’s that his adopted daughter’s genetics may come through if triggered by knowing her own background, but I think that that may need emphasising a little more (the irrational fear) to reduce the meanness. Only my point of view. Others may disagree.

Cheers,

Tristan

ray miller wrote:
Wed Feb 05, 2020 9:44 am
I always imagined that coming of age
she’d want to know more about her birth parents
and we’d end up unearthing the newspaper cutting
that lies at the bottom of a box in our bedroom
that tells how her father came armed with a pistol
to the Social Services Reception window
threatening to murder the member of staff
who was stealing away his baby daughter.
How his low IQ and impaired vision
persuaded the magistrates to take pity
and not impose a custodial sentence.

But she shows no interest in her origins,
perhaps a token of how well loved and happy she is.
Elder sisters sometimes take the piss
because she’s so straight, so concrete in her thinking,
because, legend has it, she never sobs.
I’d like to tell her how well she’s done
considering where she started from
but I don’t want to start her off.

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Perry
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Re: Genetics

Post by Perry » Fri Feb 07, 2020 12:43 pm

The poem sounds very prosaic to me, more like an anecdote or a diary entry than a poem. I have written prosaic poetry too, so I'm not pointing a finger. I'm just saying that there's a lot of explaining going on, and much of it is pretty dry. A good narrative poem needs to maintain a lyrical tone throughout.
If I don't critique your poem, it is probably because I don't understand it.

oggiesnr
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Re: Genetics

Post by oggiesnr » Fri Feb 07, 2020 1:14 pm

Hi Ray,

The only bit that I found actually grated was the last two lines, I think it's the use of "started" and "start" in close proximity. It also felt at odds with the rest of the poem, why should it "start her off" as she's the one who's straight and concrete and never sobs?

I find myself unsure as to what the deeper objective of the poem is but that may just be my way of looking at the world.

All the best

Steve

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Re: Genetics

Post by bjondon » Fri Feb 07, 2020 9:36 pm

Hi Ray - I like it. It has this tragi-comic feel to the pacing and structure - a long set-up and everything revolving around this phrase 'I don't want to start her off'.

'Genetics'? - that seems like a red herring. I don't get the relevance, unless it's saying it's irrelevant.

I think I'd leave it all as one stanza, or break after 'sobs'.

Jules

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Perry
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Re: Genetics

Post by Perry » Fri Feb 07, 2020 9:57 pm

As I reread the poem, it is sounding a bit less prosaic to me, but only slightly. I'm not sure of the point of the poem. The narrator sounds insistent or angry, and I can't figure out why, since the topic seems to be how she feels about her own life. The narrator seems to have an ax to grind.

I don't know what the expression "take the piss" means, but it sounds crude, and "set her off" at the end sounds more colloquial than lyrical.
If I don't critique your poem, it is probably because I don't understand it.

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Re: Genetics

Post by Macavity » Sat Feb 08, 2020 4:59 am

The title pointed to inherited, coded behaviours, a nature rather than nurture outcome. There is a tension in the poem because these can be triggered and therefore the 'patient' has always to be treated with care. The carer has to act against their own inclinations and so I don't find the ending mean, but sad. There can be a 'limited' progression to 'adulthood' - self-responsibility and awareness - so there is a sense of 'defeat'. Well that was what I read anyway. I found the vernacular authentic rather than contrived.

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JJWilliamson
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Re: Genetics

Post by JJWilliamson » Sat Feb 08, 2020 3:29 pm

I also see a genetic legacy, Ray, and one that points to the title.

I read concern and an internal dilemma from the speaker, where he thinks twice before saying nothing.
However, there exists an awareness that lurks beneath the surface, quietly waiting. There lies the tension.

The reader is left wondering about the outcome; a desirable result methinks.

Best

JJ
Long time a child and still a child

ray miller
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Re: Genetics

Post by ray miller » Sun Feb 09, 2020 11:26 am

Thanks for all the comments. Poetically, it's piss-poor and I'm not sure I can change that much. The gist is that the professional therapists speak as one in asserting that childhood traumas, and the emotions generated, should be discussed, should be out in the open. We've never had The Big Conversation with this child, mostly because of her disinclination or indifference, even. Yet she's emerged from her teenage years at least as well balanced and happy as any of our other children. So I guess it's a "If it ain't broke" poem. What's also relevant, I suppose, is that she was taken into foster care at 6 months and it's an article of faith within the childcare system that the earlier an abused or neglected child is rescued, the better the outcome. So nurture may trump nature, hence the title.
Perry - to take the piss means to make fun of.
I'm out of faith and in my cups
I contemplate such bitter stuff.

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